The Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra have become the bookies’ favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest.
The rap group, who formed in 2019, replaced Ukraine’s original entrant Alina Pash, who withdrew from the competition in February.
On February 12, Pash was announced as the winner of Vidbir, the nationally televised selection show that Ukraine uses to find its Eurovision entry, with her song ‘Тіні забутих предків’ (‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’).
Kalush Orchestra finished in second place with their track ‘Stefania’, which is an ode to powerful mothers. They are now the favourites to win Eurovision overall, with their odds currently sitting at 19/3 (via Oddschecker).
According to the BBC, the six members of the band were on tour in Ukraine when Russia invaded. “The day the war began, we were returning from the tour from the city of Dnipro,” rapper Oleh Psiuk said. “And we were close to the explosions in Boryspil. We heard them ourselves.
“One member of our band [then joined] the civil defence, defending Kyiv. I have created my own volunteer organisation. We help people find shelter, medicines, transport. We just help people with whatever they need.”
The band have been given special permission to visit Israel for a pre-Eurovision concert, as men of military age are banned from leaving the country. This will be their first international performance since the invasion began.
Speaking of the band’s Eurovision entry ‘Stefania’, Psiuk said: “Its lyrics are very heartfelt, and in the situation we’re in, everyone misses their mum. It makes some people think of Ukraine as our mother.”
He continued: “It is important for us to show to Eurovision and, actually, to all the world, how cool our music is, how cool our national Ukrainian spirit is. We are definitely happy to have an opportunity to be this mouthpiece of Ukraine.”
Russia was banned from competing in this year’s competition following backlash to an earlier statement from organisers saying the country would be allowed to compete despite launching a military assault on Ukraine.