Their journey to Turin has been anything but smooth-sailing but Kalush Orchestra have emerged as one of the frontrunners in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. We take a closer look at the band, their journey to Eurovision, their song ‘Stefania’ and its chances of winning.
Who are Kalush Orchestra?
Kalush Orchestra are the parallel project of Ukranian rap group Kalush. Unlike Kalush, Kalush Orchestra include folk and traditional Ukranian elements in their music as well as rap. The members of Kalush are rapper Oleh Psiuk, multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk (who is also a member of 2020 and 2021 representatives Go-A) and DJ KilimMen. Joining them to form Kalush Orchestra at Turin are singer and flutist Tymofi Muzychuk, instrumentalist Vitalii Duzhyk and backing vocalist Sasha Tab.
The Rocky Road to Eurovision
Kalush Orchestra participated in Ukraine’s national final Vidbir but were not the overall victors of the contest. They came second, scoring only one point less than Alina Pash and her song ‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’. As a result, Pash was chosen to represent Ukraine in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. The victory was contentious from the beginning: incorrect results from the televote were announced, leading to a failure of the electronic scoreboard, meaning the host had to read the results from a sheet of paper. Psiuk questioned the validity of the results, claiming producers had refused to speak to him about the errors afterwards.
Further complicating matters, it was then alleged that Pash had entered Crimea from Russian territory in 2015: Vidbir bars artists who have performed in Russia since 2014 or have entered Crimea “in violation of the legislation of Ukraine”. Pash withdrew on 16th February, meaning another entrant would take her place. Once the overall results of Vidbir were verified, Kalush Orchestra agreed to take her place as they had come second overall.
Just two days later, Russia began their invasion of Ukraine, causing Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War 2. Kalush Orchestra themselves became active in the war effort, with Psiuk running a volunteer group that supplies medicines and helps fellow Ukrainians flee the war.
With all that’s going on, many questioned whether Ukraine would be able to compete this year. However, speaking to Wiwibloggs, Psiuk said “We believe that it is very important for every Ukrainian to be able to speak up for Ukraine right now. For us it is particularly important to to represent the authentic, beautiful Ukrainian music, so that it gets an opportunity to be represented in the world market. That’s why the opportunity to represent Ukraine here at the Eurovision Song Contest is of particular importance.” The band were made exempt from recording their live-on-tape performance in Lviv due to Russia’s bombing of the city and their Vidbir performance will instead be used if needed. Kalush Orchestra have been able to perform at the pre-parties in Amsterdam, Tel Aviv and Madrid and appear to be set to perform live at Turin at the time of writing.
A Closer Look at ‘Stefania’
Psiuk wrote ‘Stefania’ about his mother, who reportedly had not even heard it until it was performed at Vidbir! The lyrics touch on the hardships of being a mother and all she has done for him, with each verse ending in a lullaby refrain before the chorus:
Стефанія мамо мамо Стефанія
Розквітає поле, а вона сивіє
Заспівай мені мамо колискову
Хочу ще почути твоє рідне слово
Stefania mum mum Stefania
The field blooms, but she is turning grey
Sing me a lullaby mum
I want to hear your native word
Although Psiuk wrote the song for his own mother, he acknowledges that the war has given the song new meaning, telling Wiwibloggs: “People started connecting to it in a different way because some people see it as a song about Ukraine as a mother. Others are thinking about their mothers because they are missing their mothers at the moment. This song has got so much connection with people in Ukraine and I really hope that it will also be enjoyed by other people in Europe.”
How Will Kalush Orchestra do at ESC?
Ukraine are currently the bookies’ favourite to win the contest this year and it’s easy to see why: ‘Stefania’ combines traditional folk elements with modern music which people love and allowed Go-A to score 5th overall with ‘Shum’ last year. Additionally, Kalush Orchestra have had a difficult journey to the contest and viewers will love seeing them represent Ukraine against all odds.
Some are already arguing that a victory for Ukraine is yet more proof that Eurovision is solely a political contest but we couldn’t disagree more: without the war, ‘Stefania’ would still be a strong contender and we can’t wait to see it live at Turin.
Listen to Ukraine’s 2022 entry below!