The Story of Maidan: Part 6— A song called Revolution Ukraine

Artisto sings Revolution Ukraine on Maidan stage in December 2013

Now we look at the arrival of Artisto, rapper of the unofficial Maidan anthem Revolution Ukraine while in the previous chapter 5 — EuroMaidan ist born we have seen how it all started.

“Revolution Ukraine” goes Kyiv

29 year old Rostyslav Hrytak has waited for this moment for a long time. But then it takes him just a day. On November 22nd he arrives in Kyivs Airport Boryspil with little more than a bag full of clothes and a song he has recorded a year before. The song is a prophecy (as he would say) or wishful thinking (as I would say). It is called “Revolution Ukraine”.

He originally comes from Ukraines largest western city Lviv, after the divorce of his parents he and his mother migrate to Cologne, Germany. Rostyslav, who sings as Artisto but is called Slava by his friends feels the talent early on: “In second term I read a poem by our national poet, Shevchenko. My teacher was so moved that she cried and hugged me. From then on everybody went silent when I performed. I didn’t have to learn it, I just could do it.”

As it often does, talent needs purpose to create the truly remarkable. “I read everything. I was moved by the Holodomor, that’s the name for the famine war that Stalin lead in the 1930ies against Ukrainians. Five million people died with the approval of Stalin. There was this story of the family where the youngest child dies. The mother puts the dead child outside on the window sill and continuously cuts a slice to feed her second. That child survives but the mother dies from madness. I had a huge sense of justice even back then. I was so mad and shocked. I have thought of the crazy mother and knew that I wanted to change the world.”

Artisto and friends near the Maidan stage, December 2013

So in November 2013 he arrives into a city he doesn’t know and where he has no friends. But he knows that there is a place to go: Maidan, independence square in the center of the city. What he sees there are some thousand people standing in the damp cold. The monuments are illuminated, somebody has erected a stage that is big enough to fit two people when they snuggle and put a sound system with speakers next to it.

Slava not only has a strong voice, he has a smile that wins over people easily, especially women. He is the opposite of shy, he chats up some female activists and within minutes finds himself up on that stage next to well known actor Evgeny Nischuk, Maidans emcee. At this point Nischuk does not know that he is about to hear the coming unofficial anthem of the revolution. And Slava does not know that he is standing next to the future minister for education of his country. Nischuk holds an umbrella as many in the audience do while Slava starts his song, a microphone in one hand, shoving the other up and down in rapper’s style. He is not really prepared. The tape plays the song with his voice and he just sings over it. He is visibly excited, he is loving this moment even if he does not always hit the right notes.

Evgeny Nischuk discusses stage appearance with Artisto

Slava started to write the song two years prior after a lengthy stay in the home country he had left so long ago. “People are disappointed and phlegmatic. They all say that nothing will change, ‘s been like this, ‘t will be like this forever. I want to prove it. It works. You can change things. Change yourself, change your country,” says Slava. “I am a singer, I obviously thought of a song. In the following weeks I speak to many people in Lviv and other places. I do research like a journalist, write down what I am told.” It’s the Holodomor-story all over again. He is shocked by the poverty and corruption. Slava is angry. He wants to react with the tools he has: a song. “Revolution Ukraine is made of two rap parts with 16 lines and all important social issues are handled in it,” he declares.

Captivated audience singing Revolution Ukraine

“Gender equality, a president who does not rob its people, we need equal distribution of resources. I rap ‘we need!’ and then I sum it up what we need: higher pensions for grannies and grandpas, medical supply when you are poor, progress. Then the line: ‘the corrupted will be sent to outer space.” Then:

Drugs and alcohol eat Ukraines children every day
 I am for vegetables and sports for all
 Cachaca for the eldery and Kung Fu for the young
 600.000 Ukrainians die every year, the same amount emigrates
 If this goes on, Ukraine will not survive the century
 All right, that’s sounds better in Ukrainian,” chuckles Slava and continues to rap without music if you don’t stop him:

“Ukraine is not yet dead, she shall live, away with the ruins,
 as a mother loves her son, Ukraine loves us.
 As Shevchenko says in his last will
 we break the chains for our freedom 
 and for the right in our house we will stand united.

It takes him a while to come from experience to verse. “Some phrases come like being spit out, some have to worked up hard. Some parts you have to search, search, search,” he says. “It has to be beautiful and well rounded. For me. But it is not enough. I need more depth. I need support. I chat up a famous Ukrainian via facebook, he was once a counselor for the UN. I ask him to help me write the hook, the chorus. One that has the power to move people. I don’t know the guy but he agrees to work with me via Skype. I say whats on my mind and he responds. We replace, add and delete and eventually I have my four lines. With the help of Bohdan, the counselor of the UN.”

I have seen the lady in the middle on every day. She never missed attendance on Maidan.

Finally, Slava has arrived. It took him a year to produce the song with a well respected German producer, not knowing how to pay for it. There is a childrens choir and strings. The song is arragened professionally, it has a good rhythm and a catchy tune. But what counts most is that it has the sincerity of a man who believes in his mission. A lesser man might have failed against the potential naïvity of its themes. But Rostyslav a.k.a. Artisto is the real deal. He means it and he has the chuzpa to pull it off.

Now he got a song and he looks for a way how to use it. In 2012 there are parliamentary elections. Slava calls the electoral office of Vitaly Klitschko with whom he shares the country of residence, Germany. He pesters the Klitschko camp long enough to be invited to sing on the boxer-turned politician’s trail.

But it is not the right time yet. Klitschko does not stand for revolution, rather for evolution at best. Slava is kicked out after some gigs.

He returns to Cologne and waits for the right moment. A year later, two months before Maidan, Slava comes back to his birth city Lviv. He has never really left his home. “There is this board on the street — a wishing board on which people can write their dream,” recalls the singer. “I stand here with chalk in my hand and I do have this dream of a new Ukraine where everybody can survive in their own house. And ‘Revolution Ukraine’ shall do its part.” But in September, revolution is still as far away as anything. Once again he returns to Germany. In November 2013 the moment has come and Slava is among the first to follow.

— — — — — — — — → The next chapter 7 — First clashes in November.
Previous Chapter 5 — EuroMaidan is born.

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