As the war in Ukraine rages on, recently marking a grim 100-day milestone, some of the country’s music stars are banding together to raise funds abroad in an effort to aid their countrymen, and women, still fighting in the east of the now war-torn nation.
Ivan Dorn, one of Ukraine’s most eclectic and best-known music names, is currently playing a string of European tour dates and he now will be joined by Ukrainian artists The Hardkiss, ONUKA, and Artem Pivovarov in a small American “Stand Up For Ukraine” tour this summer. The trek is set to begin in Miami later this month, with shows to follow next month in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.
For Dorn, the gigs are a chance to play for Ukrainian fans currently living in the United States, as well as for liberal Russian expatriates and curious Americans who are sympathetic to Ukraine’s current predicament.
“What I want to do, is spread Ukrainian culture, music and DNA through the concerts,” he says from Paris, where he is now (temporarily) living with his family. “Ukraine is a specific culture, and its culture is bullet proof — you can’t ever kill the idea of Ukraine.”
The 33-year-old is currently in the middle of a series of shows in Europe (also fundraising engagements) and he says the response from fans was different, and highly emotional, this time out on the road with the war top-of-mind for concert-goers.
“I wasn’t sure how my concerts should be….but after the first performance in Vilnius [Lithuania], I figured out that you don’t need to preach [politics] from the stage; you don’t need to talk about the war, it’s all around us already, we need to just let people express their emotions, and to express themselves,” he says. “I never saw so many people crying during my concerts, especially during the melancholic tracks like my Ukrainian language single from last year,” he adds.
Dorn inhabits a somewhat unique position within Kyiv’s music universe. The artist performs in Ukrainian, Russian and English, and he has followers all over the Russian Federation as well as within Ukraine. He says he has tried to use his reach into Russia in years past to try and build bridges and create a culture of peace, something that has been perhaps permanently shattered now.
Dorn was recently put in a list of banned artists for live shows within the Russian Federation for his pro-Ukraine politics, but says, “I wasn’t disappointed by this. After the war started in February, there was no way I was going to perform in Russia anymore anyway.”
Dorn continues: “I was still trying to build bridges between Ukraine and Russia years ago, even after what happened in 2014 [Russia’s invasion and contested annexation of Crimea]. I believe that we still need to try and find a solution. But Ukraine is a different country, with its own values — yet after the war started in February, it doesn’t matter anymore. That’s all gone now. There were a lot of Ukrainian artists actually who were trying to spread Ukrainian values inside Russia through touring and our music, but it didn’t help stop the war, ultimately.”
The best Dorn can do now is to try and change the hearts and minds of Russians (and other nationalities) that he can still reach outside of Russia (some of whom are in the U.S.) through his music.The singer is also bullish on releasing more English-language songs, and he will be performing some of his English repertoire songs on the Stand Up For Ukraine tour. (Dorn released an entire album’s worth of English songs in 2017, “OTD,” which was written and recorded in Los Angeles, and includes the standout “Beverly.”)
So how many songs will Dorn play from “OTD” during his US tour? That remains to be seen, and depends of what he thinks the audience make-up is like at his first show in Miami on June 28th.
“I will see what kind of people show up at the first concert in the States,” he says. “If I see that there are a lot of local U.S. natives there, I’ll do more English-language songs on the U.S. tour. But if it is all Ukrainian or Russian expats, I’ll adjust my set.”
The main thing the songwriter/performer/producer hopes to accomplish in America this summer, is to raise money for charity, and to inspire people.
“We already have raised over 2 million Ukrainian Hryvnia,” he says (around $68,000). “It’s not that much so far, but everything helps and it’s still something. I just want people to see how big our culture is, and I want people to see all the bands on this tour to discover new music from Ukraine and maybe it will inspire in some way to bring us all closer.”