The Close Knit Connections of Ukraine's Pop Music Scene

ukraine family ties

There’s a lot of opinions on why Ukrainian music is experiencing a full-fledged renaissance in the recent years, but whatever the cause, the result is truly spectacular. Whether we’re talking about full-on pop acts like “Vremya I Steklo” with their inescapable mantra-like choruses, or ONUKA, who’s blending futuristic electronics with hundreds-years-old folk instruments. The auditory and visual aspects on the contemporary Ukrainian scene is blooming.

With that aside, and if you take a closer look, it also appears to be highly interconnected - creating an ecosystem of fruitful family ties and friendships. The most obvious example is last year’s breakthrough ironic hip-hop collective “Griby”, which consists of Yuriy Bardash, 4atty aka Tilla and Simptom NZHN. Bardash is a seasoned producer, who created his own production company Kruzheva Music, which launched successful pop acts such as “Quest Pistols” and “Nervy”.

While Griby arrived to shower the audience with irresistible ironic hooks on top of hypnotic house beats, Bardasha’s wife Kristina Bardash was interested in very different approach to electronic music. Her solo project, Luna, which also belongs to the extended Kruzheva Music family, is an indie-pop affair, based on melancholic delivery and dancefloor-ready arrangements. Think Sia crashing a Boiler Room event. Luna obviously has to fight for her right for this DIY-party: press likes to ask her how much involvement her husband has over her career and she’s ready to defend herself. In an interview to Afisha Daily, Luna said that it’s ironic that both she (a photographer) and her husband (a producer) suddenly became touring performers. In the same interview she said that while she “has questions about why Grybi have more views on YouTube”, she does think that her music has staying power. Girl power.

Before launching aforementioned band ONUKA , Nata Zhizhchenko was a vital part of Tomato Jaws electronic band ( ), which was formed by her brother Aleksandr Zhizhchenko. Since the siblings were raised in a musical family (their grandfather was a renowned maker of Ukrainian folk instruments), they were familiar with all sorts of sounds and equipement to make it on - which in turn brought an eagerness to experiment, creating genre-bending electronic music. At the some point Tomato Jaws reduced its membership to just the siblings, then “adopted” a third member, Pavel Lenchenko.

Tomato Jaws officially disbanded in 2013 following the birth of Nata Zhizhchenko’s band ONUKA, and Lenchenko moved on to start Cepasa - a must-listen for the fans of lush electronics. In their personal life, Zhizhenko is married to Evgeniy Filatov, the frontman of The Maneken band. While their band's’ sound is pretty different, they still found way to collaborate, both live and in the studio.

A more tabloid-friendly union is the coupling of Nadezhda Dorofeeva (of “Vremya I Steklo” duo, ) and Vladimir Dantes (ex-member of pop duo “DiO.Filmy”, ). The two met on a train to a big award show and kept their romance in secrecy for two years, before announcing it to a huge gossip magazine. Soon after, Dorofeeva’s band “Vremya I Steklo” hit the jackpot by recording their breakthrough hit single “Imya 505”, one of the biggest and catchiest pop hits Ukraine has presented in recent years. Dantes’ “DiO.Filmy” duo split in 2015, and the singer started working as a TV and a radio presenter. Perhaps a feature on any of “Vremya I Steklo”s upcoming bangers can launch his solo career?

If we dive deeper into the history of “Vremya I Steklo”, we meet another Ukrainian musical power couple: Aleksey “Potap” Potapenko and his ex-wife Irina Gorovaya, who co-owned the mighty MOZGI Entertainment production company. Despite the divorce, the two still work together launching future popstars and making sure their impressive roster of current signees remain relevant. Their recent project is a pop-dance collective “MOZGI”, which consists of several male members of the company’s “usual suspects”. The newest anthem is called “Power”. A power of family and friendly ties, we’d like to add.