Ukraine in Focus… To celebrate our collaboration with Eurovision we are delving into the musical careers and minds of some of the amazing Ukrainian Artists and Projects that will be going live on Melodic Distraction this month.
Today, we sit down with the wonderful record label from Kyiv, No Time For Swing and asked them about their label, the history of jazz within Ukraine and the modern Jazz scene.
1) To start off, can you tell us a little about the yourselves, your wonderful record label and how it came about?
No Time For Swing is a Ukrainian сontemporary jazz record label that focuses on modern and independent jazz. Our label was born out of the development of the Kyiv and Ukrainian instrumental young jazz scene at FUSION over the past four years. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and ongoing war, our events have grown from small jam sessions of 60 people to attracting over 500 attendees. Through these events, musicians have had the opportunity to collaborate and form bands, and some have even released their own music.
Our label aims to further support these talented artists and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop their careers both in Ukraine and internationally. We believe that Ukrainian jazz has a unique voice and sound that deserves to be heard on a global scale, and we are passionate about bringing this music to new audiences. With our label, we aim to continue nurturing the vibrant and exciting jazz scene in Ukraine, while also helping our artists to reach new heights in their careers.
2) You released your first compilation which includes some amazing jazz and electro-jazz, can you tell us the story behind this release
The release of our first compilation, "Blakyt," was a meaningful project for us. It's a collection of jazz and electro-jazz renditions of Ukrainian folk songs. The compositions were written by musicians who were directly impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For instance, Zhenya Pugachev, who wrote "The Moon in the Sky, the Stars Shine," is from Crimea and has been unable to return home for years. Roman Bulakhov, who penned the variation on the Ukrainian national anthem, had parents who survived the occupation and experienced constant bombings. Each artist involved in this project has a personal connection to the war and a painful history. "Blakyt" allowed them to release their negative emotions and express their love for their country and home through music.
3) Can you give us some insight into how you have found running a record label throughout the war within Ukraine?
Running a record label during the war in Ukraine was challenging but also rewarding. At the beginning of the invasion, many of the musicians we knew volunteered to help, and some even went to the front lines. Initially, many artists found it difficult to listen to or play music due to the emotional toll of the conflict. However, as time passed, they began to channel their emotions into their creative work.
Despite the challenges posed by the ongoing war and the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to adapt to remote work and continue our operations. Our team members were spread across different cities and faced varying circumstances, but music brought us together and allowed us to continue working towards our goals. Despite the difficult circumstances, we remained committed to our mission of promoting modern Ukrainian jazz and helping local artists gain recognition both at home and abroad.
4) The history of jazz within Ukraine is very interesting, can you give us some insight into how jazz within Ukraine has developed differently to other strands of jazz, whether it has a unique sound?
Jazz in the USSR had a complicated history. In the early years of the Soviet Union, jazz was embraced as a symbol of modernity and progress, and many Soviet jazz musicians were even sent to the United States to study and perform. However, during the Stalin era, jazz was condemned as "decadent" and "bourgeois," and many jazz musicians were persecuted or imprisoned.
In the 1950s and 1960s, jazz experienced a resurgence in the Soviet Union, but it was subject to strict censorship and control by the state. Jazz musicians were often forced to perform in state-run ensembles and were not allowed to play certain styles of jazz or use certain instruments.
Despite these challenges, jazz continued to be popular among many Soviet citizens, and some Soviet jazz musicians were able to gain international recognition. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a new era of freedom for jazz in the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, where a vibrant modern jazz scene has emerged.
5) How have you seen the Ukrainian modern Jazz scene develop over the past couple of years?
Over the past few years, the modern Jazz scene in Ukraine has witnessed a gradual development, as jazz is still not a mainstream genre for the majority of listeners. However, there has been an increase in collaboration and live performances among musicians. Thanks to FUSION, a platform that supports young artists and promotes instrumental music, the number of listeners has expanded, and new communities have emerged in different cities. The birth of new bands has also contributed to the growth of the scene, making it a unique and exciting time for jazz in Ukraine.
6) Do you have any future goals for the label / any exciting plans that you can share with us?
As a label, our future goals are to continue promoting modern instrumental music in Ukraine and beyond. We believe that the young generation of musicians has a unique and fresh perspective to offer, and we want to support them in any way we can.
One of our main objectives is to facilitate an exchange of experiences and foster cooperation between Ukrainian musicians and the rest of the world. We hope to bridge the gap between Ukraine and Europe, for instance, in terms of culture, allowing our artists to participate in international festivals and inviting foreign artists to perform in Ukraine.
Ultimately, we want to contribute to the growth and recognition of the Ukrainian jazz scene and showcase its unique and diverse sound to the world.
7) What can our listeners expect from your Melodic Distraction Radio show?
During our Melodic Distraction Radio show, we plan to share the story behind our label's inception, its unique position in Ukraine, and how we have managed to thrive amidst war and adversity. We hope to provide insights into our motivations, desires, and how we have grown as a label. Our listeners can expect to gain a deeper understanding of the Ukrainian jazz scene, the unique stories and experiences of our artists, and the impact that our label is having both locally and internationally.
8) We know it’s hard, but can you recommend 5 of your favourite Ukrainian artist at the moment (other than the 5 amazing artists on your compilation!)
New Brain Trio
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