Kiev ravers escape the horrors of war through music

Kyiv, August 30 (Reuters) – Parties rarely start with a DJ arriving in his military uniform, but this is the reality for Ukraine’s electronic music scene as it moves through the war.

Before the Russian invasion began on February 24th, the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, was fast becoming a top European nightlife destination. Now his young creatives are beginning to rebuild a cultural fabric destroyed by the conflict.

The uniformed DJ is Artur Bhangu, a 25-year-old ophthalmology student who joined the Kyiv Territorial Defense Force at the start of the war.

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He told Reuters he was happy to make music to raise money for the Ukrainian 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 we could help our friends with music…raising funds and helping the front-line soldiers,” Bhangu said before donning civilian clothes for his set.

A lively crowd gathered for Saturday afternoon’s event in the sunny courtyard of a disused factory, one of many vast, derelict Soviet-era industrial spaces repurposed by artists and musicians in Kiev’s Podil district.

Things are complicated by Kyiv’s wartime 11pm curfew, but the event’s organizer and headliner, 34-year-old Garik Pledov, said the forced switch to daylight raving also has its perks.

“I actually like them better when they’re held during the day because parties are more about music, culture and conversation than when they’re held at night,” he told Reuters.


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

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

He organized his first post-invasion event, an art exhibition, in May, but refrained from throwing “proper parties” until mid-June.

“It was clear at that point, at least to me, that people need this, that they want to take their minds off[the war]if they can,” he said.

The assembled crowd of about 100 people, many dressed in fluorescent tops or leather, bounced lively on the dance floor in the early evening sun, enjoying a chance to take their minds off the war.

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

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

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

Aside from the music and dancing, the event provided another form of catharsis for the partygoers: the evening climaxed when a red bin with painted Russian flags and Kremlin towers was thrown into the crowd and promptly kicks and baseball bats swarmed around.


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

Attendees at the event were rich in stories from their friends who fought or volunteered in frontline areas. Some don’t come back.

Pledov recalled the surreal experience of hanging up after a friend who was killed under shrapnel fire while evacuating civilians.

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

“So you’re playing pretty upbeat music, but there are photos of him all around you. You remember being with him, you see his relatives. That dissonance was the strangest experience of my life,” Pledov said.

The organizer expressed the hope that the war would not permanently destroy Kiev’s burgeoning nightlife reputation.

“I think if we win, Kyiv will shoot up into the sky like a rocket… although I don’t know how great that analogy is right now,” he remarked 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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