Okean Elzy (“Elza’s Ocean”) is by far the most popular and successful rock band to emerge from the 1990s music scene of post-Soviet Ukraine. Led by vocalist Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, this group of Lviv University classmates came together based on a shared passion for American grunge bands like Nirvana, and ended up dominating the Ukrainian charts for years. They are one of the few mainstream rock groups who sing mostly in the Ukrainian language, instead of Russian. During the Orange Revolution, Okean Elzy lent their support to the people’s movement by performing free concerts on the stage in Maidan, or Independence Square.
Commonly known as V.V., the pop-punk group Vopli Vidoplyasova (Vidoplyasov is a character from a Dostoyevsky novel and “vopli” means “screams”) reached international fame in Paris in the mid-1990s, before heading back home to settle in Ukraine. Since then, V.V. has developed a cult-like following thanks to a unique blend of humorous, politically aware lyrics, and infectious dance rhythms. V.V. served as the “opening act” for Viktor Yushchenko’s 2004 presidential campaign, touring with the candidate throughout Ukraine to work up the crowd before rallies. Every summer, V.V.’s leader, charismatic front man Oleh Skrypka, hosts the The Rock Sich music festival in Kyiv, which celebrates Ukrainian-language alternative rock and hip-hop music.
After attending a Yushchenko campaign rally in their hometown in 2004, musician Roman Kalyn and his band GreenJolly channeled their inspiration into the political rap “Razom Nas Bahato” (“Together We are Many”). The song was recorded soon after and made available for download on the Internet – allowing it to spread like wildfire all over Ukraine. When the protests in Independent Square began in Kyiv, “Razom Nas Bahato” became the unofficial theme song of the revolution. It was blasted through loudspeakers and car stereos and chanted by crowds throughout the tent city. The song became so popular, a version of it was selected as Ukraine’s official entry to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005.