If you’ve paid any attention to the news recently, you will have probably come across a story on Ukraine. Beginning with the very serious and rather depressing – the so-called “revolutionary” toppling of the Yany government, the subsequent pro-Russian unrest this ousting provoked, and all culminating with the annexation of the Crimea. Things then took a turn towards pulp.
In the last two years, it became apparent that almost every member of the American ruling class had attempted to suborn, or been suborned by, someone Ukrainian. Trump had, quite unambiguously, tried to bribe President Zelensky, and Hunter Biden, leader of the free world’s only living son and noted crack addict, somehow found himself on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Only in April of this year, the apartment of Trump hireling Rudy Gulliani was raided because of an equally interminable association with Ukraine. I’ve been assured this is all very important and not at all funny.
Amongst all of this, I find it hard to find any mention of music.
This is a shame, though perhaps understandable (as important as clubs are, an obviously venal president and a potential civil war usually trump them as news stories). Since 2014, when the violence skyrocketed and the Ukrainian economy nosedived, the city of Kyiv, as is so often the case with these things, saw a surge in creative expression centred around the city’s now infamous rave scene.
In the spring of 2014 DJ Slava Lepshee started the now widely regarded Cxema. Though its beginnings were far from auspicious. Beginning out of necessity, literally every other venue closed during the aforementioned crisis of 2014. The night’s development, beginning in small intimate venues before moving to much, much bigger spaces, is perhaps its only prosaic feature. Interestingly, the movement as a deliberately apolitical almost nihilist project, or as an optimistic refutation of contemporary Ukrainian politics, are both equally plausible readings.
The art director of Closer, Cxema’s relatively sensible contemporary, was quoted in The Guardian outlining his vision as: “Nothing is important. No philosophy, and everybody is welcome”. However, when conducting research I get the overwhelming impression of a defiant hopefulness and rejection of despair which, considering the situation in Ukraine at the moment, is a necessarily political act.
Now, for many of you this is unlikely new information, as the scene has already been quite extensively documented: ID, Dazed, Mixmag, Crack and even The Guardian have all written stories on it. ID’s documentary short ‘Exploring Ukraine’s Underground Rave Revolution’ has been viewed over 2.5 million times. And yet, at least for me, it remains completely fascinating.
Coverage has dwindled over the past few years, and a fairly extensive Google search found only a few stories published in the last two years. A real shame. Coronavirus has naturally affected rave-goers all over the world, but it’s hard not to feel especially sympathetic towards those in Ukraine, where the rave scene seems so much more important for people’s lives. That, more than anything else, is why I think positive reportage is still so necessary.