Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra’s upbeat, melodic entry for this month’s Eurovision Song Contest was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother.
But since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has become an anthem for the nation’s war-ravaged motherland.
Stefania is the most watched song on YouTube among the 35 national entries competing in next week’s Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, the northern Italian industrial city.
While some bookies and data analysts have promised victory to others, the Kalush Orchestra song is quickly becoming a sentimental favorite.
“I will always find my way home, even if all the roads are destroyed,” wrote Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk in Stefania.
The lyrics have become more poignant as Russian missiles bombard Ukrainian towns and villages, already forcing more than 11 million people to flee the country.
“Some stuff in here was actually written well before the war and dedicated to my mother,” Psiuk told the Associated Press from his Turin hotel, sporting a bright bucket hat that makes him instantly recognizable to anyone who streamed Stefania.
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“After everything started with the war and hostilities, it took on additional meaning, and many people began to see it as their mother, Ukraine, in the sense of the country. It’s really grown on so many people in Ukraine,” he said.
“Our goal is to make Ukrainian music popular, not only in Ukraine but all over Europe. And Eurovision is the best platform for that.”
The band members mix breakdancing with hopak, a Ukrainian folk dance, in a high-energy performance punctuated by Psiuk’s raps.
Costumes consist of embroidered Cossack shirts and vests mixed with contemporary street wear.
Psiuk and five bandmates, all males between the ages of 21 and 35, were granted special permission by the Ukrainian authorities to travel to Turin to attend Eurovision, travel overland to Poland and then fly to Italy.
An original band member stayed behind to fight.
Psiuk, 27, left behind a network of volunteers he organized two days into the war to provide logistical assistance to people across Ukraine seeking shelter or transportation.
All will return to Ukraine when the song contest is over.
“We feel a great responsibility,” said Psiuk.
“It is very important for us to be as useful to the country as possible. We want to represent our country properly.”
Kalush Orchestra is more than just a music group.
It’s a cultural project involving folklore scholars and purposefully blending hip-hop with traditional Ukrainian music, dances and costumes, some of which have long been forgotten, Psiuk said.
The six-month-old project takes its name from Psiuk’s hometown of Kalush, tucked away in the Carpathian Mountains south of the western city of Lviv. It is an evolution of the original Kalush hip hop group, which Psiuk also moderated.
19 years ago, Ukraine took part in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time.
It has since won twice, both times with songs performed mostly in Ukrainian: by Ruslana in 2004 and Jamala in 2016.
Psiuk attributes Ukraine’s success to “the special character of our music”.
“I really hope that Ukrainian music will become even more popular and heard after we performed it at the Eurovision Song Contest,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/ill-always-find-my-way-home-ukraines-eurovision-entry-unites-nation-41621142.html ‘I’ll always find my way home’ – Ukraine’s Eurovision entry unites the nation