Onuka – a unique Ukrainian music band that doesn’t leave anyone indifferent

Renata Doroshko/personal work

Ukraine is living through the times of big reforms and revolutions. These changes are connected not only to politics and economics but also to people’s minds, interests, values and tastes. The music industry is the one that underwent one of the biggest changes since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. During the years of the USSR the music in Ukraine didn’t develop much and was too dependent on Russian artists. Even if there was a new singer or band appearing on stage they would soon go to Moscow, the place that offered more opportunities and offers. That’s why after the collapse of the USSR the majority of Ukrainian singers and artists stayed in Russia and used to come to Ukraine from time to time to give concerts.

But since the conflict between the two countries begun Ukraine has forbidden the entrance of Russian singers who support the Russian policy into Ukraine and this is how Ukraine started to look for its own entertainers. This is when the Ukrainian public started to see a lot of new faces appearing on the music channels almost every day. Individual singers and music bands who didn’t have a chance to show their art or skills before now have the chance to shine. And in this article I will tell about one the most unique and modern music bands that appeared quite recently but already managed to conquer many hearts of Ukrainians and foreigners.

Onuka (from Ukrainians translated as granddaughter) is the name of the Ukrainian musical band which appeared in 2013. The uniqueness of this band is in the original idea of uniting the folk Ukrainian instruments with the electronic beats. Nobody before Onuka had the idea of uniting two things that from the first sight cannot be united at all. Besides that there were no good representatives of electronic music in Ukraine at all.

Nowadays the band consists of four people, the solo singer who also plays a saddle, the drummer, the keyboardist and the bandura player. During big live concerts they invite a trio of trombones, french horn and trembita players to perform with them. All together these people managed to unite modern electronic music with the folk motives of traditional Ukrainian melodies which helped them to become very famous and beloved by Ukrainians in a very short period of time.

During the Eurovision contest in Ukraine in 2017 Onuka performed at the main event of the competition in between the performances of the actual participants. This was a big push for their fame spreading abroad to European countries. Nowadays Onuka singles are also listened to in Russia, USA, Germany, Poland, Great Britain, Canada, France, Japan and Netherlands. The band has plans to perform in foreign music festivals to widen the geography of their fan groups.

One of the most famous albums of Onuka is called Vidlik (from Ukrainian “countdown”). As the soloist of the band, Nata Zizhckenko, explains, she was inspired to write this song by the Chernobyl catastrophy and it’s influence on the Ukrainian citizens.

The song 1986 was also written under the influence of the Chernobyl catastrophy and it includes the real conversation between the fire brigades that were fighting the consequences of the explosion. Nata says that she often goes to Pripiat and calls this place “The best place on Earth” that brings her a lot of inspirations and new ideas.

Everybody can have their own associations and thoughts whilst listening to Onuka’s songs, for some people it’s just an “interesting music” and the way to listen to Ukrainian instruments in a new, contemporary way, for others they are songs with deep meaning and philosophy. But the fact is that Onuka becomes more and more popular and is not going to stop anytime soon. They are planning a big tour, concerts with symphonic orchestras and all the time they are looking for a way to use more and more Ukrainian instruments that they didn’t use in the previous songs.  

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