Eurovision 2022 is just around the corner, so music fans don’t have much longer to wait for a night brimming with exuberant performances and whacky costumes.
The grand final takes place on Saturday May 14 in Turin, Italy, thanks to rock band Måneskin’s win last year. But it’s Ukraine who have been pegged as the favourite to win the competition this year.
Rap group Kalush Orchestra are flying the flag for Ukraine this year, with their song Stefania. The outfit combines hip-hop with folk motifs and elements from Ukrainian traditional music.
Rapper Oleh Psiuk, multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk and dancer Vlad Kurochka make up the original group, known mononymously as Kalush. Formed in 2019, the trio is named after Psiuk’s hometown of Kalush, in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast of western Ukraine.
For their Eurovision performance, the group has joined forces with sopilka (Ukrainian folk flute) player Vitalii Duzhyk and vocalists Tymofii Muzychuk and Oleksandr Slobodianyk to create Kalush Orchestra. The group’s track, Stefania, was written to honour Oleh’s mother, who heard the song for the first time when it was performed live at the Ukrainian National Final.
Since then, though, the lyrics have taken on new meaning, particularly lines like “I‘ll always find my way home, even if all roads are destroyed”. The members of Kalush Orchestra feel they are supporting Ukraine in a unique way, sharing their culture and language on a massive platform like Eurovision.
Talking to Eurovision TV, they said: “We feel a big responsibility, since we received permits to leave Ukraine to be here. We have a duty to be useful to our country at this moment. We didn’t have any opportunity to rehearse together for a long time, but now, we’ve gone into ‘extra mode’.
“We’re all very hard working, and we’re all doing what we can to make this happen. We’ve enjoyed seeing people singing our song, even if they didn’t know all the words. We really appreciate seeing people supporting Ukraine, and supporting us.”
For eagle-eyed Eurovision fans, Ihor Didenchuk should be a familiar face; he’s also a member of Go_A, the group that represented Ukraine last year. Go_A performed their song Shum, an entry that also highlighted the blend of folk music and modern influences, earning themselves 364 points and taking fifth place.
It could be third time lucky for Ukraine this year, with the country having previously won the contest twice before. They won in 2004 with Wild Dances by Ruslana, and again in 2016 with the song “1944” by Jamala, becoming the first Eastern European country to take the Eurovision crown the contest twice.