Ukrainian band Antytila have spoken to NME from the frontline of Kyiv, ahead of tonight’s televised benefit show for the war-torn country.
Announced last week, the two-hour Concert For Ukraine will take place in Birmingham tonight (March 29) in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee‘s (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. The concert will be televised on ITV and will see performances from the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Paloma Faith, Camila Cabello, Becky Hill, Anne Marie and Ed Sheeran.
Sheeran in particular made headlines when one of Ukraine’s most popular bands, Antytila, posted a plea to the singer-songwriter to allow them to play the concert remotely from the frontline of Kyiv, where they are defending the capital against Russian invaders.
Sheeran later responded by saying that “I love you, I stand with you” to all Ukrainians and that he “couldn’t wait” to check the band’s music out. However, they were denied the chance to perform at Concert For Ukraine – with organisers claiming they were “only able to focus on the humanitarian situation, not the politics or the military conflict”.
Hello Ed Sheeran, greetings from Kyiv! 🇺🇦We are musicians of the Ukrainian band Antytila – one of the most popular Ukrainian bands with a lot of fans in Ukraine and all over the world. In peacetime, our concerts gathered stadiums. The war has changed our lives and now we are fighting with weapons against the Russian occupiers. We thank you, and all the British people for their support. Believe me, we are grateful, and we will always, always remember this.Today we learned about your charity concert for Ukraine, which will take place in Birmingham.And we offer to make a live broadcast between Kyiv and Birmingham with Antytila temporary joining the gig remotely.Our band will play our music in Kyiv, a city that has not surrendered and will never surrender to the Russian occupiers. You will play in Birmingham. We are not afraid to play under the bombs. Through music, we want to show the world that Ukraine is strong and unconquered. We will fight and sing for victory in front of the whole world that supports us.So on March 29, we are ready.Ukrainian below 🇺🇦Привіт з Києва, Ед!Ми музиканти гурту Антитіла, одного з найпопулярніших гуртів України, який має багато прихильників в Україні та у світі. В мирний час ми збирали стадіони. Війна змінила наше життя і тепер ми зі зброєю воюємо проти російських окупантів. Ми дякуємо тобі та всьому Британському народу за підтримку. Повірте, ми ще віддячимо, і завжди, завжди пам‘ятатимемо про це.Сьогодні ми дізналися про твій благодійний концерт для України, який відбудеться у Бірмінгемі.І пропонуємо зробити телеміст Київ-Бірмінгем із живим увімкненням з Києва.Ви граєте там, ми граємо тут, в Києві, в місті яке не скорилося і ніколи не скориться російським окупантам. Ми не боїмося, ми хочемо через музику показати всьому світу що Україна сильна і нескорена. Ми будемо битися і співати заради перемоги на очах у всього світу який підтримує нас. Тож 29 березня, ми готові!Друзі, просимо максимального поширення, а також тегати сторінку Еда Ширана у коментарях 👇
Posted by Antytila / Антитіла on Tuesday, March 22, 2022
Formed in 2007, the Ukrainian pop-rock band have released six studio albums and are a stadium act in their home country. They were planning another stadium tour there this summer before the war started.
“There are a lot of social messages in our music,” frontman Taras Topolia told NME. “We’re not just for entertainment – we like to say something important through our music. We try to show people some light and say that everything will be alright, even if it seems hard right now.”
He continued: “We try to explain to our fans how to resist and live through dark times, as much as we love to write songs for fun and dancing.”
Three members of the band are currently fighting on the frontline, with two of them working as civilian volunteers helping local residents in the capital to find medical and hygiene supplies and stay alive. At the time of our call, Topolia said that he and his comrades and bandmates were in fear of a chemical attack from Russian forces – but were united and resolved to defend their country.
Speaking about the upcoming benefit concert in Birmingham, Topolia said: “It’s great that someone like Ed Sheeran can help spread the information that we are strong but that Ukraine’s refugees need help. We decided to record that video to show all of the people that we are from Kyiv, we are strong and we are unconquered. That was the main message.”
He continued: “Ed Sheeran got back to us, and that was a big pleasure for us. Our wives and children are not in Kyiv anymore. They are in western Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States – so it’s very important for us to understand that the European and Western people are standing for us.”
The frontman admitted that the band were “upset” that they weren’t allowed to perform remotely at tonight’s concert, but said that they “respectfully accepted” the organisers’ decision.
“We don’t have the right to push them,” he said. “For us, it is much more important for us to fight in Ukraine and resist the Russian occupiers. That’s why we are wearing helmets and holding weapons in our arms. We were pushed to do this. The Russians left us no other choice – for European values and for Ukraine’s future.”
Topolia also revealed that he was hopeful of a collaboration with Sheeran in the future, under the right circumstances.
“We don’t want to disturb him,” he said. “If it can be organic and true for us to have a collaboration, then that would be great. I believe in true stories. It would be a big pleasure for us to team up with Ed Sheeran and celebrate something.”
As for now, Topias said that he was “collecting the pictures and emotions from this war inside of me”, adding that: “When Ukraine gets the victory, we will write a lot of new songs and we’ll tell a lot of stories about this time of our lives.”
Sharing a message for people in the UK and in the West, Topias added: “Thank you for supporting the Ukraine – it’s very important for us. Don’t be afraid of Russia. During these months, everyone can see that the Russian army is a fake. Ukrainian people are very strong and we are fighting for European values, not just for our country. If we don’t stop Russians here, then they will come to Europe.
“I want to invite everyone to the Ukraine after we get our victory. I want to invite everyone to our beautiful country to see Antytila in the stadiums where a lot of people will gather and celebrate. Everything will be alright.”
At the start of the invasion, a number of other Ukrainian artists spoke to NME about the impact of the war and how people could help.
“Don’t just watch the news and scroll feeds,” said singer-songwriter Khrystyna Soloviy. “Unite in rallies, demand sanctions from your government against Russia, do not tolerate Russian goods. Discover and support new Ukrainian independent music, which was born during the war with Russia: Onuka, Latexfauna, DakhaBrakha.
“Andy Warhol, Serge Gainsbourg and many others have Ukrainian origin; their parents were forced to emigrate due to the wars in Ukraine. We are about a free future, not about war. Don’t just look at us as victims, we are creators.”
Concert For Ukraine will be broadcast at 8pm on ITV tonight (Tuesday March 29).