Kyiv ravers escape the horrors of war through music


KYIV, Aug 30 (Reuters) – Parties rarely start with the arrival of a DJ in his military uniform, but that is the reality of Ukraine’s electronic music scene as it surges through the war.

Before the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, was quickly becoming one of Europe’s top nightlife destinations. Today, its young creators are beginning to rebuild a cultural fabric devastated by the conflict.

The DJ in uniform is Artur Bhangu, a 25-year-old eye student who joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense Force when war broke out.

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He told Reuters he was happy to play music to raise money for Ukraine’s armed forces. a portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to them.

“As soon as the situation in Kyiv calmed down, we immediately started thinking about how to help our friends by using music…to collect donations and help those at the front,” Bhangu said before to put on civilian clothes for his set.

A bustling crowd gathered for the Saturday afternoon event in the sunny courtyard of a disused factory, one of many sprawling, dilapidated Soviet-era industrial spaces repurposed by artists and musicians in the neighborhood from Podil to Kyiv.

Matters are complicated by Kyiv’s wartime 11pm curfew, but event organizer and headliner Garik Pledov, 34, said the forced switch to daytime frenzy had its advantages.

“I even like them more when they’re done during the day, because parties have become more about music, culture and conversation than when they’re done at night,” he told Reuters.


In Kyiv, hundreds of kilometers from the front lines, reminders of war are still never far away.

“If there is an (air raid) siren, we turn off the music and go to the nearest shelter,” Pledov said.

He held his first post-invasion event, an art exhibition, in May, but refrained from hosting “real parties” until mid-June.

“At that time it was clear, at least to me, that people needed it, that they wanted to take their minds off (the war) when they could,” he said.

The gathered crowd of around 100, many dressed in fluorescent tops or leather, bounced lively onto the dance floor in the early evening sun, relishing the opportunity to distract themselves from the war.

“I think this (event) can give people who have been through very tragic experiences a certain sense of freedom and a sense that life will go on and be beautiful,” said Anastasiia Lukoshyna, a 21-year-old student.

For others, the relentless rhythm of electronic music can be therapeutic.

“If I stay at home…my aggression and negativity will have nowhere to go,” said Oleksandra Pshebitkovska, a 31-year-old computer technician.

Besides music and dancing, the event offered another mode of catharsis for revelers: the evening climaxed when a red barrel bearing painted Russian flags and Kremlin towers was thrown into the crowd and quickly invaded a flurry of kicks and baseball bats.


Like all communities in Ukraine, Kyiv’s electronic music scene has already felt the devastating human toll of war.

Attendees at the event abounded with stories of friends fighting or volunteering in frontline areas. Some don’t come back.

Pledov recalled the surreal experience of DJing following a friend who was killed by shrapnel while evacuating civilians under fire.

His friend wanted to be remembered with a party rather than a traditional, somber gathering.

“So you’re playing some pretty upbeat music, but pictures of him are all around you. You remember being with him, you see his loved ones. This dissonance was the weirdest experience of my life,” Pledov said.

The promoter expressed the hope that the reputation of Kyiv’s nascent nightlife will not be permanently destroyed by the war.

“I think when we win, Kyiv will take off into the sky like a rocket… although I don’t know how good that analogy is right now,” he observed wryly.

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Reporting by Max Hunder and Stefaniia Bern Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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