Eurovision Winners: Kalush Orchestra

[Photo courtesy of Deadline]

By Amy Szmik, Copy Editor  

By now, most people are aware of The Eurovision Song Contest, an international songwriting contest between European countries. If you’re not, Eurovision is a televised songwriting contest that has predominantly European countries send a musical act to compete for the win. Its first iteration was in 1956 and has been going on for 66 years. Typically, the competition is hosted in the country that had won the previous year, so the 2022 edition was hosted in Turin, Italy thanks to 2021 winners Måneskin. Usually hosted in May, Eurovision has brought us some of Europe’s most talented, outlandish, fun and dynamic acts to center stage by featuring famous winners such as ABBA, Celine Dion, and more recently, Duncan Lawrence. Eurovision’s popularity has spilled into the United States, and many popular songs or artists got their start from Eurovision.

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Back in 2021, the winners from Italy, Måneskin, dominated my Twitter timeline so I decided to check out what it was from. Low and behold, I opened a rabbit hole that I never got out of. I decided to write about Eurovision, not only because I love it, but also because I believe that music from different countries and in different languages is something that everyone needs to hear, no matter the language barrier. Focusing on the winner’s of each year, I wanted to write about them and see where they are now since they’ve won. 

This year’s winner of Eurovision is Ukrainian rap group Kalush Orchestra, who many thought would not even compete this year due to the war, with their song “Stefania.” Kalush Orchestra is the sidegroup of the main group, Kalush. While Kalush and Kalush Orchestra are both hip-hop groups, Kalush Orchestra features traditional Ukrainian elements and folklore in their music. The band brings in several other members for Kalush Orchestra, including Ihor Didenchuk who is part of Go_A, the act who represented Ukraine in 2021. Their unique blend of hip-hop and traditional music is what gravitated me towards their act during the 2022 competition.

“Stefania” was written as an ode to all mothers and dedicated to frontman Oleh Psiuk’s mother, whose name is Stefania. It took on a new life, as a dedication to Ukraine and the mothers who are fighting in the war. The song won with a total of 631 points, thanks to the televotes from the public, beating out The UK’s entry and Spain’s entry. Their dynamic performance featuring traditional Ukrainian instruments, breakdancing and a very iconic pink bucket hat, drew attention from all over Europe. 

After it was announced the group had won, Psiuk spoke to all of Europe on stage, asking for help and saying “I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol, help Azovstal, Right now!” So, what happens next for the Eurovision winners?

Well, for Kalush Orchestra, their next step after winning was selling their trophy in an effort to raise money for Ukrainian relief. They raised $900,000 from the trophy, with those proceeds going to relief for their country and weapons for the war. Along with the trophy, they auctioned off the pink bucket hat that Psiuk wore during the performances. After they won, the group had to go back to Ukraine due to a rule that made it mandatory for men of a certain age to stay and fight. It was announced that Kalush Orchestra will be holding relief shows in North America starting in October, with ticket sales going to charities for Ukraine. They’ll be kicking it off in Seattle and ending in November in Toronto. The band had also performed at Glastonbury this June, performing alongside big names like Billie Eilish. 

The Kalush Orchestra’s experience in Eurovision has not been easy or standard by any means, however, the band has been making the best out of it. One of my favorite winners from Eurovision, Kalush Orchestra, has managed to come out on top in uncertain times, but also show beyond that that they are talented musicians who bring a versatile sound to music as a whole.

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