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HomeMusicWith Russian Attack Underway, Ukrainian Band Kazka Unlikely To Perform At SXSW

With Russian Attack Underway, Ukrainian Band Kazka Unlikely To Perform At SXSW

The day before Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv pop trio Kazka was in a downtown studio in the capital rehearsing for its scheduled South by Southwest showcase next month.

After an hour and a half of music, Sasha, the band’s singer, contemplated what might soon happen to her country and suggested they cover Bob Dylan‘s “Masters of War” for the Austin, Texas performance.

“We discussed doing it next day,” says Andriy Urenov, the band’s producer, from central Kyiv, where he lives with his dog, Del. “And next day didn’t happen.”

Formed in 2017, Kazka is composed of vocalist Oleksandra Zaritska (Sasha), sopilka player Dmytro Mazuriak and multi-instrumentalist Mykyta Budash. With three studio albums under their belt, the band is most known for its 2018 hit “Plakala,” which was the first Ukrainian language video to get over 200 million views on YouTube, according to Russian-language media reports.

After SXSW the band expected to tour with fellow Ukrainian Tina Karol, with six U.S. dates scheduled beginning on March 25.

Now that plan seems unlikely. On Thursday, Russian forces began a full-scale assault on Ukraine by air, land and sea, in what is the largest military attack on a country in Europe since World War II.

On Friday, as Russian forces encroached further on Kyiv — despite some resistance from Ukrainian forces — Urenov, the 50-year-old A&R and music director for Ukrainian record label Mamamusic, who previously worked for MTV Ukraine and regional radio, spoke by phone with Billboard during a rare break from the wails of sirens and military planes.

Where do you live? What’s happening around you?

Andriy Urenov: I’m living quite in the center of the city. A lot of sirens, and sometimes they’re scary, and the explosions occur from time to time. It seems a little bit surrealistic. We couldn’t believe we can just wake up in the middle of the war in our city here.

Where is Kazka located? How are they?

All of the band members of Kazka are in Kyiv right now. Sasha, the vocalist, has the house in the countryside, but she’s very close to the war zone. It’s [near] the military airport, which is important to Russian military forces, because they can land their planes there. We cannot say, “How dangerous is it?” because we’ve never been in this kind of situation. But the friends who are in the army say, “This is the real war,” and we cannot get used to that. We just don’t believe our eyes and our ears.

What do you expect will happen to you? Do you have a pathway to safety at this time?

There is no forecast for this particular situation. Right now, no flights into and outside the Ukraine, because it’s very dangerous for the people to fly here.

Tell me more about where you are living.

I live in the center of the city with my dog, a brown Labrador. We have a bomb shelter in two-minutes reach from my home. Today, I just walked there to check the doors. I went there to find out how it’s working. They have electricity there, like 100 can be placed there. It’s in the territory of the school. The shops, the food stores, the supermarkets are open. Despite the lines, the people are all very polite, and I was surprised with how calm people are. They have the full baskets of food, because they know tomorrow there possibly will be no supplies. The personnel in the store, we see they’re very tired, but they’re smiling and saying, “Have a good day.”

Where and when did Kazka’s rehearsal take place?

In the center of Kyiv, just a skyscraper, like a business center. A new studio opened this month. It was 4, 5, 6 in the evening. We have the man who was trying to document the preparation for the festival and it was the first video we made for the festival. It was the sound engineer, myself and the cameraman and the band.

What are you thinking as far as traveling to the U.S. next month for South by Southwest? Can that happen? 

It depends on what comes next. We’ve been going to the festival two years, before the pandemic times. We’ve been preparing for the program. Just the day before the war started, we’d been rehearsing. We were just laughing and sitting and playing music. Of course, we would like to represent our Ukrainian music there. Lizzo is the favorite of our singers and we wanted to contact her for the concert and invite her personally for the gig. We had plans for an American tour and now it’s absolutely unclear whether this can be possible. The sky above Ukraine is closed. It’s prohibited for the men ages 18 till 60 to leave right now. They may be called by army to be served as military.

You’re a music producer who might have to fight to defend your country.

That is terrifying, but it’s in the rules of wartime. We have a real war here. I’m reading the news and I’m crying. These young guys who are defending Ukraine, the Zmiinyi island, it’s a very small island in the Black Sea. They didn’t surrender. Thirteen people were killed by Russians there. The dialogue — this is the Russian battleship, “Please leave your arms and give up.” And [the Ukrainians] say to the Russian military, “Go f— yourself.” Then they killed all of them. I cannot process it. I’m originally from [nearby] Odessa. I worked in Russia years ago, and I cannot believe I can be happy that our army killed some Russian soldiers. It’s unbelievable.

Just two days ago, the band was rehearsing for South by Southwest, and now it’s preparing for war.

We have been making new equipment, because on the American tour, we should have been touring with another Ukrainian artist, Tina Karol, and she had another kind of mixing console. We made this rehearsal to try all this equipment, we’ve gone through our regular program, like an hour and a half. We’ve been preparing some new songs. Sasha wanted to perform “Masters of War,” by Bob Dylan, because she likes the song. It was perfect for [the] times. Which is now. We didn’t expect it would happen next day.

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