Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra – who won war-torn Ukraine in last month’s contest – performed their UK debut at Glastonbury Festival.
The folk rap group opened their set in the early hours of Saturday morning on Shangri-La’s Stage of Truth with a set of 13 songs – 12 of which were written in just 10 days, according to their team.
Crowd-pleasing Stephania – who has become an anthem of hope for their country since her triumph at this year’s Eurovision Festival – was second in their set list and was again played as the final track due to demand popular.
It was a quick change of fortune for the band, who were fighting as part of Ukraine’s resistance against Russia just weeks before their Eurovision triumph in Turin.
The morning of their performance, the band shared a photo of themselves in front of Big Ben in London, with the caption: “Yo today we’re playing one of the biggest festivals in the world @glastofest. We’ll be playing at the same event with @billieeilish and @kendricklamar Every day we visit a new city and a new country, but we always get the same comments – “The boys from Ukraine have been the coolest.” Then – more, it’s just the beginning …”
On stage, rapper Oleh Psiuk (in his pink bucket hat), multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk and dancer Vlad Kurochka led the collective, who sang largely in Ukrainian, with a few lines and raps in English. A translator was also present on stage.
Despite the enthusiastic audience of around 3,000 knowing only one of their songs (Stephania), they quickly picked up the catchy tunes, often singing along.
A call-and-response section of the set was remarkably successful considering the language barrier, acknowledged by Psiuk who joked, “Who doesn’t know the Ukrainian language? Oh my God…”
Ahead of the song Love Train, Psiuk told the audience, “Just imagine it’s the last party of your life,” a poignant thought for an act occurring as their compatriots fight for their lives.
An earworm titled Stomba Womba particularly delighted festival-goers, who sang as if it were a much-loved favorite, rather than some foreign song they had never heard before.
Another song, Oh Mamon, echoes Stephania’s theme, celebrating a mother’s role in the family.
Of course, the Ukrainian pipe heard at Stephania made a frequent (and not unwelcome) appearance, along with beatboxing, the sound of birds singing to a tune, and a mysterious Ukrainian instrument resembling a long, thin, held-in guitar. air on the shoulder of a musician.
Ahead of their performance, the band’s frontman Psiuk told Sky News: “We want to share our culture and our music. And Eurovision was a time when we showed our Ukrainian music and want to spread it around the world.
“We are super happy to be here and we really want to impress everyone here.
“Right now, I feel great support from all over the world. It’s great that people here are also supporting Ukraine. And we are very grateful to everyone, to every person who supports Ukraine.”
Their performance at Worthy Farm marks their first on British soil, and the band became global stars after their Eurovision win with Stefania, which was dedicated to Psiuk’s mother.
The festival crowd certainly gave them a warm welcome, though the majority probably hadn’t heard of them until just a few months ago.
It was a quick rise to fame for the band, who signed to record label Def Jam as part of Universal Music Group after forming in 2019 and have released two albums so far.
Since their victory, the group has been spending time in Ukraine and abroad in Germany promoting the release of Stefania’s music video.
They also auctioned off the glass microphone trophy they won at Eurovision to raise money for the Ukrainian military.
Last week it was revealed that the BBC was in talks with the European Broadcasting Union over hosting Eurovision, after the body decided it could not go ahead with the war-torn Ukraine next year in the tradition of the winning host nation.
Commenting on the decision, Psuik told Sky News: “Ukrainians are very upset by this news that Eurovision may not be in Ukraine, but we hope there are discussions going on at the moment. We hope Eurovision will still be in Ukraine.”
Away from Kalush Orchestra, Glastonbury will also host a number of other Ukrainian acts this year, amid the Russian invasion of their country.
Go_A will open the John Peel Stage on Saturday with a performance of electronic folk music and haunting vocal melodies.
The group, which formed in 2012, represented Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021 with the dance song anthem Shum, placing fifth.
Ihor Didenchuk, a member of the group, is also a member of the Kalush Orchestra.
The folk quartet of Kyiv DakhaBrakha will perform Sunday afternoon on the stage of the Pyramid.
The group, which combines the musical styles of several local ethnic groups, describes itself as “the ambassadors of free Ukraine” and has long used its performances to express its opposition to the war and the policies of Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday called on the world to “spread the truth” about Russia’s invasion of his country via a video message played on the big screens of the Other Stage.
Calling Glastonbury the ‘greatest concentration of freedom’, Mr Zelenskyy told the crowd of thousands: ‘The festival resumes this year after a two-year hiatus, the pandemic has put the lives of millions of people on hold around the world , but did not break [us].
“We in Ukraine would also like to live life as before and enjoy the freedom and this wonderful summer, but we cannot because the most terrible thing has happened – Russia has stolen our peace.”
He ended his message by saying “Slava Ukraini”, which translates to “glory to Ukraine”, which was met with loud, rolling cheers from festival-goers.