When it comes to supporting the Ukrainian people in their battle against the Russian invasion, it helps when an opportunity matches our own interest. On this site that means directly funding the artists of Ukraine if possible. Fortunately, this new video from YouTube creator Bandsplaining will point you in the direction of 18 Ukrainian underground bands that deserve a listen and your money (if so choose).
While his channel is devoted to “Weird stories and lesser-known genres that don’t get covered by Pitchfork,” Bandsplaining doesn’t usually go in for current events, but as he explains, he is interested in music history, and bands that have continued to create under extreme and dangerous conditions.
“Music scenes that existed six weeks ago are now at risk of vanishing completely,” he says. The list is completely subjective, and only hints at the Ukrainian music scene. Each major city has its clubs, and its fans, and its own homegrown labels. The sadness of watching the video is wondering what might have been bombed out of existence.
I suspect none of the bands or musicians will be well known to most readers, though DakhaBrakha might be—they performed an excellent set for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
Including a band well-known enough for public radio might not be that “underground” but Bandsplaining really means musicians who don’t sound mainstream.
Ukraine has its own particular psych/metal sound, exemplified here by Shiva the Destructor, La Horsa Bianca, Stone Jesus, and Somali Yacht Club. Lviv’s Sherpa the Tiger play modern Krautrock grooves. For electronica it has the coldwave of Kurs Valüt, Voyage Future’s ambient music, and the low-fi hip-hop of Provod.
There’s also older music history dug up here—the tale of Valentina Goncharova, the classically trained violinist who turned to free jazz and musique concrete, or pianist Ihort Tsymbrovsky, whose 1995 private cassette release is now considered way ahead of its time.
Bandsplaining checks in with some of these bands to see their current fates. Some have moved, some are fighting, saving refugees, and doing what they can. His genuine interest in their lives makes this video more than just a listsicle.
Most of this music is available through Bandcamp, which does mean a majority of the money is going back to the musicians themselves. And any YouTube revenue from the video will go back to the bands too, Bandsplaining says, or Ukrainian charities.
Lastly, the YouTube comments for the video contains hundreds more recommendations from fans of Ukrainian music. Bandsplaining has opened the floodgates.
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.