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War Ruins Ivan Dorn’s Effort to Reconcile Russia and Ukraine


Ivan Dorn, a Ukrainian musician, had mostly finished his first album in five years by February.

“Dorndom” was recorded in a village in northern Ukraine, and is a more conceptual project than his trademark genre-crossing pop. On the LP, Dorn, 33, who was born in Russia, sings in Russian, as he does on a lot of the hits which have propelled him to stardom in each Ukraine and Russia.

He settled on a release date at the top of May, and his team worked to place together a world tour that included dates across each countries. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.

Against the backdrop of missiles raining down on Ukrainian cities, devastating hospitals, theaters and apartment buildings, releasing Russian-language music that didn’t reflect on these events felt unsuitable.

“Persons are just too sensitive about language in the mean time,” Dorn said in a recent interview after a sold-out concert in Tbilisi, Georgia.

As an alternative of performing and promoting “Dorndom” — which Dorn still hopes to release someday; its name is a mixture of his own and the Russian word for house — the musician is now playing older hits across Europe and the USA to boost money to assist Ukrainians in peril.

“I’m trying to grasp the extent to which this album would work today,” Dorn said.

For Ukrainian artists like Dorn, whose country’s culture in addition to its politics have long been intertwined with Russia’s, such concerns have turn out to be familiar: Is it right to perform in a rustic whose leader claims your nation as a part of his own? Should artists switch to writing and singing in Ukrainian, which could mean potentially losing access to a much larger audience, and market, in Russia?

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, many Ukrainian artists, including Okean Elzy, the country’s hottest rock band, and Monatik, a widely celebrated pop singer, stopped performing in Russia.

Dorn — who was born in Russia, but grew up in Ukraine — took a distinct approach: He continued touring in Russia in an effort to construct “a cultural bridge” between the neighboring countries, he said.

“My idea was this: I capture as many individuals as possible with my music in order that they might never attack my very own country,” he said. “I used to be confident that folks who got here to my live shows wouldn’t fight in a war against Ukraine.”

At a 2016 concert in Moscow, Dorn said from stage, “There’s nothing between us, nothing but friendship,” and asked the gang to exclaim, “Hello, Kyiv!” People raised their hands and screamed ecstatically.

Although he sings in Russian, Dorn says he has all the time tried to emphasise his Ukrainian identity. Over time, his catchy tunes encompassing hip-hop, house and experimental music have earned him a status that is analogous to Pharrell Williams; recently, Russian critics voted his debut album from 2012 the very best record of the past three many years.

But Dorn’s efforts to evangelise friendship between the 2 countries had provoked anger amongst some Ukrainians, including repeated criticism from nationalists, based on Ukrainian news reports.

Today — with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, saying last month that Russia occupied a fifth of his country, and was edging to capture more — Dorn said his mission of friendship is perhaps seen as a failure. But he doesn’t regret it.

“The Russian propaganda machine was just too powerful,” he said. “I’m sure that if we might spend per week in front of Russian television, we might ourselves begin to imagine that we’re Nazis and fascists,” he said, referring to false charges that the Kremlin uses to justify the invasion.

Dorn has now cut ties with Russia and is specializing in supporting Ukraine within the war, turning his label’s headquarters right into a volunteer center and removing his music from Russian streaming services. He has also canceled contracts with Russian brands and artists.

Within the many years after the autumn of the Soviet Union, dozens of Ukrainian pop stars performed and appeared on television in Russia. Lots of them relocated to Moscow permanently, making a cultural scene mixing influences from each countries.

Svetlana Loboda, a preferred Ukrainian singer, moved to Moscow in 2017, where she could discover a much greater and established pop industry than in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

Within the early days of the war in Ukraine, Loboda said her hometown was largely turned to rubble. She posted a video to her 13 million followers on Instagram, most of them from Russia, saying in tears that the war had “been the worst thing that has happened in my life.” She then released a song in Ukrainian and announced that she had moved elsewhere in Europe.

As war erupted between the 2 countries, Russian artists have faced a stark selection, too: stay in Russia and support President Vladimir V. Putin’s war, or protest, stop performing and flee.

Even in Ukraine, the music industry has not been united within the face of Russia’s invasion.

This month, Yuri Bardash — certainly one of Ukraine’s most successful producers — called for Ukraine to capitulate and accused Ukrainian artists like Dorn of “promoting the war by touring in Europe” with the intention to “legitimize it.”

Nevertheless much Dorn may hope for peace between the 2 countries, when Russia invaded, his support for Ukraine was never in query. He was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, but moved to Slavutych, Ukraine, two years later when his father, a physicist, was sent to work on the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

How the Ukraine War Is Affecting the Cultural World

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Valentin Silvestrov. Ukraine’s best-known living composer, Mr. Silvestrov made his way from his home in Kyiv to Berlin, where he’s now sheltering. In recent weeks, his consoling music has taken on recent significance for listeners in his war-torn country.

Alexei Ratmansky. The choreographer, who grew up in Kyiv, was preparing a recent ballet on the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow when the invasion began, and immediately decided to go away Moscow. The ballet, whose premiere was set for March 30, was postponed indefinitely.

Dorn has cousins within the Russian town of Birsk, whom he visited when he was a baby, and who helped shape his sense of Ukrainian identity.

“They might tell me: ‘You’re strange, you’re interesting,’” he said. Dorn taught them the language and introduced them to Ukrainian hip-hop. “Each time you’re amongst Russians, you need to underline that you just are Ukrainian,” he said, to claim your identity.

Only certainly one of his Russian members of the family has been in contact for the reason that war began, he said. One cousin had called, saying that he had left Russia for Turkey, but that the remaining of the family supported the war and will not be persuaded otherwise.

Within the many years immediately after the Soviet collapse, such divisions amongst families would have been practically unimaginable.

Mikhail Kozyrev, a number one Russian producer, recalled how in those years he had organized festivals and introduced Ukrainian artists to radio stations in Moscow, in what felt like a unified cultural space.

“I deliberately tried to fill Russian airwaves with Ukrainian music, in addition to with bands from Moldova, the Baltic States,” Kozyrev said. “Up until 2014, where an artist got here from didn’t matter,” he said. “For me, it was one, united post-Soviet soundtrack.”

Like many liberal-minded Russians, Kozyrev — who has now left his country — says that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made the cultural split between the countries everlasting, and irrevocable. Dorn, nonetheless, sees things more philosophically.

“We forgot history and now it got here back,” Dorn said. “I’m sure time will pass, and we’ll ignore what happened now,” he added, referring to a long-term future spanning generations. “After which we’ll argue again — there might be peace and war again.”

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