|Select magazine number|
GreenJolly and their hit song on Maydan and at the Eurovision Song Contest
The Orange Revolution that swept the current president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko to power has become history. The repercussions in Ukraine — and not only in Ukraine! — have been widespread and many far-reaching changes have started to be introduced. The whole political and moral atmosphere in this country has been radically altered. Among the events on a smaller scale but caused by the Orange Revolution was the emergence of a rap group, GreenJolly, whose song Razom nas bahato, had become the anthem of the Orange Revolution. GreenJolly have been voted to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Kyiv in May 2005, following last year’s victory of the Ukrainian pop diva Ruslana.
The Ukrainian word “gryndzholy” has nothing to do with the English word “green” or “jolly” which feature in the anglicized version of the group’s name. Gryndzholy is a Hutsul word for a sled much used by children in the Carpathians to slide down the slopes. Gryndzholy were also used for transporting faggots from the forest, water from a well, straw to feed the animals. Having a gryndzholy was a mark of a higher social status in the Hutsul society, and those who had them were referred to as “lucky” or even “happy ones.”
Anthem and a rallying cry
GreenJolly come from the west Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk where they joined the support movement of the presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and later mass protests when it became clear that the election had been rigged in favour of Viktor Yanukovych, one of the main presidential contenders promoted by the much-disliked president Kuchma.
Rallies swept across the country, Ivano-Frankivsk being one of the centres of revolutionary turmoil. GreenJolly, inspired by the very first rally in Ivano-Frankivsk, got down to writing a song that would reflect their own feelings and those of the protesters. It took them only four hours to produce a song that became an instant hit.
Later, when they came to Kyiv to perform at Maydan Nezalezhnosti (the central square of Kyiv, the focal point of the Orange Revolution), their song, its rhythm and its words, found an immediate response among the hundreds of thousands of protesters who were gathered there. Razom nas bahato thus became an anthem of the Revolution that began as a protest against dishonesty, falsifications and corruption of the government and in general against regime established by president Kuchma, and developed into a movement for freedom and radical change. “Together, there are many of us,/ And we cannot be overcome. /No to falsifications! /No to lies! No to machinations! Yes to Yushchenko! Yes to Yushchenko! This is our President! We are not cattle. We are not goats./ We are Ukraine’s daughters and sons. /Now or never. That’s enough waiting!/ Together, there are many of us,/ And we cannot be overcome!”
There is hardly a need to explain anything in these original lyrics of the song, except maybe for one line: “We are not cattle. We are not goats.” The thing is that Viktor Yanukovych, the presidential candidate of a dubious morality and lacking in propriety, in his speeches addressed to his supporters, called those who joined the Orange Revolution — millions of people! — bydlo and kozly. Both words in Ukraine have a highly pejorative connotation and though they literally mean cattle and goats respectively, they are very offensive and are used only in low colloquial or even underworld talk. That is why there was a very sharp reaction on the part of a great many Ukrainians who were branded as bydlo and kozly, and GreenJolly’s song reflected this indignation.
Within days, Razom nas bahato began to be played and sung all over the country. The popular uprising acquired a popular song to match. Rallies, hundreds of thousands strong, chanted, Together, there are many of us, And we cannot be overcome! These words became a rallying cry of the Orange Revolution, and the song was a powerful musical addition to the orange colour, the ubiquitous visual symbol of the revolution.
The GreenJolly Band is now made of three members, Roman Kalyn, Roman Kostyuk and Andriy Pisetsky.
Two Romans met back in 1992, at the time when Kostyuk was serving in the army. His unit was stationed in Ivano-Frankivsk and Kostyuk met Kalyn at an officers’ community culture centre. Both were fond of music; Kostyuk played the guitar and at that time Kalyn who had had music education, was a member of a rock group, Zakhid (West). Kostyuk and Kalyn took to each other immediately and joined another rock group, Nemamarli, playing rock ballads based on Ukrainian traditional tunes. In 1997 they founded their own group which they called Gryndzholy, touring Ukraine and taking part in festivals. Though they achieved a measure of popularity, music alone could not feed them and they had to earn their living by working elsewhere — Roman Kostyuk had a job as a sound engineer at the Zakhidny polyus radio station and Roman Kalyn was an announcer and a programme host at the Tretya studiya TV station.
Andriy Pisetsky, a successful musician in his own right, joined GreenJolly in December 2005 when everything had changed for them during their meteoric rise to all-Ukraine popularity. GreenJolly’s song Razom nas bahato proved to be a musical expression of the slogans and aspirations of the Orange Revolution. At that time though, even in their newly acquired fame nothing presaged another amazing twist in their music careers.
The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual event which this year is to be held in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in May. This contest designed to identify Europe’s “best song” is taken extremely seriously in Ukraine, whose pop singer Ruslana won the contest last year. In accordance with the Eurovision rules, the country whose singer wins the contest hosts the next contest.
This year, the singer Ani Lorak was widely expected to represent Ukraine but was trumped at the last minute by GreenJolly. GreenJolly did not take part in earlier heats, supposedly a prerequisite to take part in the final run-off. Instead the group was entered, along with three other groups, at the last minute at the behest of the Deputy Prime Minister, Mykola Tomenko, who must have thought that the tumultuous demonstrations that overturned a rigged election and allowed Mr Yushchenko to win a rerun, should be reflected in the song contest. Mr Tomenko soon found himself accused of vote-rigging, overt political interference and of general bad form. His accusers included Ani Lorak’s management and opposition communist and social democrat politicians who claimed the government was behaving like the sleaze-soaked regime of former president Leonid Kuchma. The all-Ukraine vote — by phone or SMS text — gave GreenJolly 2247 votes against 1952 for Ani Lorak. It would be probably wrong to say that such a result of voting was totally unexpected. Ani Lorak is a popular, good-looking performer with a good voice; her song had a hit potential — but it was hardly more than a standard with but a little chance to be noticed among other similar songs usually presented at the Eurovision contests. By contrast, GreenJolly represented something entirely different — though their popularity was very recent, their song reflected the dominant mood in the country, and the most important thing was that it came straight from the heart.
Nevertheless, Ani Lorak’s supporters said she was discriminated against because of her alleged support for Viktor Yanukovych. Yuri Faliosa, Lorak’s manager, claimed it had become a political farce, adding that one must be careful about equating Maydan Nezalezhnosti with Eurovision and that one shouldn’t be mixing up politics with culture. Mr Tomenko was having none of it, saying, “Whatever path the participants took to the final, the final decision was made by viewers and only them.”
If Ani Lorak got a nasty surprise — she seemed to be absolutely sure of winning! — when she was outvoted, the victory came as a great and pleasant surprise to GreenJolly. Later, some doubts were raised in the media whether GreenJolly were experienced enough to perform at an international song contest of such a scale, or whether their song had enough potential to win. The lyrics were changed to avoid accusations of politicizing the apolitical Eurovision Song Contest and now it runs,
We won’t stand this — no! Revolution is on!
Cuz lies be the weapon of mass destruction!
All together we’re one! All together we’re strong!
God be my witness we’ve waited too long!
What you wanna say to your daughters and sons?
You know the battle is not over till the battle is won!
Truth be the weapon! We ain’t scared of the guns!
We stay undefeated, ‘cuz together we’re one!
Oleh Skrypka, frontman of the VV rock group (WU published an interview with him in one of its last year’s issues), said in support of GreenJolly’s being chosen to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest: “I wish them success at the contest. I do hope they, win the first place — they deserve it.”
Video and support
GreenJolly are all set to fulfill Skrypka’s wish. At the end of March they made a video of their song to promote it. Olena Hantsiak-Kaskiv, the producer of the Kryla Studio, the Russian director Andriy Novosiolov and the German photography director Jan Hoffman joined forces to create a product which would reflect both the spirit of the song and the mood in which it was written. The PORA Organization and the Anomaly Film Production Studio helped to create the video. The Ukrainian Records Label has released Razom nas bahato as a single.
The rules of the Eurovision Song Contest say that the fans of the host country have no right to vote for the song presented by their country. Fair or not, it means that GreenJolly and their song will be assessed by viewers all across Europe — except for those in Ukraine, and it will surely be a demanding test for them.
Regardless of the result, GreenJolly have already become an integral part of what came to be known as the Orange Revolution — a powerful protest against corruption, falsehood and post-soviet mentality that were pulling the country back into the past, and a sweeping support for new mentality, freedom and hope.
Based on an essay by Mariya Vlad
Photos are from the GreenJolly’s archives
Roman Kalyn —
vocals, trumpet, guitar and arrangements:
“Something must have been living in me all along,
and to my great surprise it came out sort of all
by itself during the revolution…
I was born in the Land of Ivano-Frankivshchyna.
My grandparents lived in a village located in the vicinity
of the town of Ivano-Frankivsk and my brother
and I often went to visit them.
There’s always been a singing streak in the Kalyns.
No family reunions went without a lot of singing.
My grandmother used to sing in a church choir
and encouraged singing at home; my father
and mother sang songs for two voices;
my Uncle Myron played the guitar and joined in the singing.
I think singing is in our genes.
Old, traditional songs were particularly popular in our family.
The Kalyns were the foremost singers in the village where
they lived and were in great demand during feasts and holidays.
My mother took special care to raise us in the Ukrainian
patriotic spirit and in love of God…
My first trip to a big city from the place I lived in was to Kyiv.
My grandfather, Yevstakhy, was a locomotive engineer
and once he took me, still a kid, along with him on a trip to Kyiv.
It was such a great fun to be riding with him in the engine’s cabin!
I felt so proud and important to be in that cabin, at the head of a long train.
During that trip I realized for the first time how great,
in every sense of the word, my country was…
Roman Kostyuk —
guitar, backing vocals, arrangements and sound engineering:
“I’m thirty three years old — it’s the age when Christ left
the world cleansed and freed from
the original sin, and it sort of obliges
me to do something special.
I hail from the village of Pidhirya, one of the most
picturesque villages of the Land of Prykarpattya.
In my family, for several generations back,
nobody smoked or drank alcohol,
and only natural food was consumed.
Wherever I go, one of the first things
I do is to buy a zink-coated bucket —
but never a plastic one —
for my morning, cold-water ablutions.
They charge me with energy for the whole day,
and the tinkling sounds that
the bucket makes provide me with music inspirations.
Andriy Pisetsky —
keyboards, saxophone, music arrangements:
“I’m the latest addition
to the group. Many of my relatives live in Canada,
some of them are rather well-known
and respected people. I’m proud
to represent them here,
in my native Ukraine.
I’m very happy I joined
the band at such a great time. I’m also from
all rock and rap musicians know each other well,
and when Roman Kalyn invited me to join him in
a rock band I was overjoyed and immediately accepted
the offer. I would not even think of refusing!...
It was such a change of scene
for me — from playing
the saxophone at circus shows in Switzerland
to playing with GreenJolly at the protest rallies in Ukraine!