Whether they win or not, they are already the stars of the contest. Here is everything you need to know about Kalsuh Orchestra, the group that will defend the colors of Ukraine at Eurovision tonight.
Even if they do not win Eurovision this evening, the Ukrainian candidates are already the stars of this 66th edition of the competition, more political than ever. Between the pre-parties – these concerts which precede the final and make it possible to meet the public – the interviews, and the semi-final, the Ukrainians were able to measure their popularity and the outpouring of sympathy across Europe, which their situation.
“When you see Ukraine, during the first semi-final, go on stage, in front of 10,000 people standing screaming, tears in their eyes …”, evokes on BFMTV Mikhail the singerwho will host the evening in Turin.
If we have talked a lot about their preparation – complicated – and their involvement in the war against Russia, we know less about the origins of this group, and its course. Here’s what you need to know about Kalush Orchestra, led by Oleh Psiuk, eternally wearing a pink bob.
1/ Originally a rap group
The formation, launched in 2019, is led by rapper Oleh Psiuk, who has been rapping since he was 15 and is a fan of Eminem. The group was then composed of three members – Oleh Psiuk, the multi-instrumentalist Igor Didenchuk, and MC Kilimmen (who appeared on stage with his face and hands covered with a mask) – and was simply called KALUSH, from the name of the hometown of Oleh Psiuk. This small town at the foot of the Carpathians is located southeast of Lviv. The group has already released two albums, Hotin in February and Yo-yoin July 2021. They only rap.
At the end of 2021 the Kalush trio launched their new project, Kalush Orchestra. This expanded formation (Tymofii Muzychuk, Vitalii Duzhyk and Dzhonni Dyvnyy have joined them) mixes raps with the folk sounds of traditional Ukrainian music.
“We have three folklore experts in the group who have studied hundreds of these songs at university. Kalush Orchestra is a mixture of old folklore forgotten for generations and contemporary rap”, thus explained to the Point Oleh Psiuk.
2/ They put their careers on hold to get involved in the conflict
Barely a few weeks ago, Eurovision was far from the concerns of the members of Kalush Orchestra. Appointed a few days before the start of the Russian invasion, they had to put their instruments aside when the offensive started.
In mid-March, Oleh Psiuk had entrusted Reuters having joined a group of twenty volunteers who came to the aid of the victims of the conflict, distributing them medicines and helping them to flee.
“I can’t rejoice (for Eurovision) because I’m worried about my loved ones,” he said then. “The war separated me from my girlfriend. She is 300 kilometers away from me. We cannot find each other, because it is very dangerous. She is in a bunker and I am there, and the sirens which warn of air raids constantly ring out.”
Always according to Reuters, another member of the group had enlisted in a territorial defense unit. The members then rehearsed separately, before being able to meet again.
3/ They received special permission to leave Ukraine
The reunion finally took place in April. but they were partial: one of the dancers of the group, engaged in territorial defense, could not join them to participate in Eurovision, and was replaced. wiwiblogs reports that Dzhonni Dyvnyy also had to give up: another artist, Sasha Tab, replaced him at short notice to do the backing vocals.
Leaving Ukraine to go to Turin was not easy, as Oleh Psiuk explained to BFMTV this week: “For a while we couldn’t leave the country. We have received special permission, and after the competition, we must return to our country.”
4/ Song with two meanings
Stefania was not intended to resonate with the Ukrainian people. Oleh Psiuk originally wrote it for his mother. But the text has taken on a new meaning in the light of the conflict that is shaking the country:
“After the war, it took on a very special dimension, because it is also dedicated to my mother Ukraine. And a lot of people identify with this song,” he said. “I’d rather it not be the anthem of war, but the anthem of our victory.”
Oleh’s mother only discovered the song when they took part in Vidbir, the competition that selected them.
5/ They almost didn’t participate in Eurovision
If they are on the verge of victory, the Kalush Orchestra almost did not participate in the competition. On February 12, Ukrainian singer Alina Pash won the Vidbir 2022, a tele-hook whose winner represents the country at Eurovision.
But the 28-year-old singer quickly found herself at the heart of a controversy over a trip to Crimea in 2015, territory annexed by Russia in 2014. As explained by the BBC, trips to Crimea are viewed with suspicion in Ukraine. The rules for traveling to the peninsula are very strict: Ukrainians are only allowed to access it through official checkpoints, and the law prohibits them from traveling to Crimea via Russia. So well that she had to withdraw, giving way to the Kalush Orchestra, who came second in the Vidbir.
The punters have established their Top 5. Behind the victory of Ukraine, which they predict overwhelming (they give it a 60% chance of winning), they foresee a podium made up of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy and Spain. See you this Saturday from 9 p.m. to find out if they were right.