Resistance & Resilience
How Music Has Galvanized the Fighting Spirit in Ukraine
By Darcy Ataman
The war on Ukraine has focused the world ’ s attention on the malevolent attack on the human rights of women , men , and children of this sovereign nation . Ukrainians are leaning into justice and artists have traded their instruments for arms in order to defend their country . Despite this , as the conflict rages on , these furloughed musicians have been infamously using their true passion as respite for their fellow citizens .
Prescient examples include the lone pianist serenading survivors amongst the rubble of their former homes , violinists soothing those taking refuge in a bomb shelter , and seven-yearold Amelia famously singing “ Let it Go ” from the movie Frozen while hiding in a basement in Kyiv .
Music gives us license to feel and express our emotions , but can it also help fuel resistance and foster resilience to those continuing to defend their home ? I spoke with two musicians / artists in Ukraine who are now part of the fighting resistance .
Serge Tiagnyriadno is a singer , multi-instrumentalist , producer , and studio owner in Kyiv . Like most musicians around the world , he had to pivot during the pandemic and started to do weekly livestreams from his studio , called Crystal City , in order to reach fans and promote his music during the initial lockdown .
When the war started , the music stopped . For 10 days , Serge lived and slept in the corridors of his apartment building for safety as the bombs dropped around him . On the tenth day , one of his bandmates contacted him with a new song he had written called “ To Fight .” Serge began to work on the backing track and quickly realized that “ being creative helps me forget .”
From there the idea was born to restart the studio livestreams , but this time in order to raise money for the local children ’ s hospital . Now , every Wednesday they are able to help spread their music and art , keep the story of the war present in our hearts and minds , and give much needed weekly donations to the hospital .
Please check out some of his music and group at Youtube . com / SergeTiagnyriadno and Facebook . com / SergeTiagnyriadno
Viacheslav Drofa , a . k . a . OTOY , is a popular Ukrainian hip-hop artist who was performing at the country ’ s biggest music festivals and working on his debut album before the war broke out . He went from negotiating a record deal based out of Paris to delivering ammunition and rockets to the eastern front where the active conflict is currently taking place .
OTOY is a passionate and articulate young artist . He speaks highly of his country ’ s stance on independent expression in cultural pursuits and marks Putin ’ s evil as historic because “ he is bombing art and theatre as well .” In-between his frontline duties he performs and helps to organize mini fundraising concerts in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with a community of young musicians called Fusion Jam .
Lviv is home to a large percentage of Ukraine ’ s internally-displaced people , including those who have fled Mariupol and lived through bombings , executions , and airstrikes . In OTOY ’ s words , “ They need this music for emotional freedom .”
Please check out some of his music , including a poignant video tribute to his missing brother , which can be found on YouTube by searching “ OTOY – Find My Country ( Lyric video ).” You can find him on social media : @ otoysounds on Instragram and Twitter .
The unprovoked aggression and attempted annexation of parts of Ukraine by Putin ’ s regime is an abhorrent wound on our common humanity . While it may seem that melody and harmony is trivial against bombs and bullets , we only need to look at the examples above to see that music provides much-needed oxygen for the citizens of Ukraine to sustain their ability to sharpen their resolve and resist their current plight .
The artists I spoke to are resolute in their desire to “ fight to the end and not give up any territory .” It is powerful to see that music is playing an active role in the war of attrition , whether it is galvanizing the international community or bolstering the humanitarian response on the ground . Let us all hope that a swift transition to justice and peace occurs for all .
Darcy Ataman , M . S . C ., is the founder and CEO of Make Music Matter Canada and Make Music Matter USA . MMM uses music therapy and the creative process , plus an emphasis on local leadership , to empower marginalized individuals and communities . Darcy is also a music producer and the co-founder of A4A Records & Publishing alongside producer David Bottrill .
32 CANADIAN MUSICIAN