Sviatoslav Vakartchouk, leader of the group Okean Elzy, will perform at the Zénith de Paris on Saturday evening November 12, as part of a European tour entitled “Help Ukraine”. At 47, he is the best known of Ukrainian rock musicians. For almost thirty years, with his melodies and his rocky voice, he has been tracing his path by producing popular songs with simple and colorful texts, and where Anglo-Saxon influences mingle with inspiration drawn from traditional Ukrainian music.
Since the beginning of the war, he has been very involved in the fight against Russia, to the point of being one of the figures of resistance to the Russian invasion. He is thus known for having given money to the army, like many Ukrainians do, and for having multiplied concerts for soldiers near the front lines in recent months. Often without a microphone and with a simple guitar, he didn’t hesitate to shoot a clip in a recently bombed school in Kharkiv or to sing in the kyiv metro transformed into an air-raid shelter last spring.
Concerts at the time of the revolution
Originally from western Ukraine, Sviatoslav Vakartchouk is the leader of a generation of musicians who hatched after the country’s independence in 1991 and chose to sing exclusively in Ukrainian. Son of the rector of the faculty of Lviv, himself a doctor in physics, he created the group Okean Elzy (the Ocean of Elsa) in 1994, then chained the successes with songs of love but also titles with resonances policies.
Stavai (“Get up”) thus marked the era of the Orange Revolution in 2004, when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians protested against the falsification of the elections, on Independence Square, known as “the Maidan”, in Kyiv. Taking up this refrain, during one of Okean Elzy’s concerts in front of the demonstrators: “Get up, my beauty, and let’s walk west, not east. »
Ten years later, the group was there again, in Independence Square, during the second so-called “dignity revolution”, launched in 2014 against President Viktor Yanukovych. At the time, it was a question, once again, of turning our backs on Russia to go west. Under Yanukovych, when his father, Ivan Vakartchouk, who had become Minister of Education, had launched a reform, the musician had joined the ranks of the protesters.
Sviatoslav Vakarchuk has also made two forays into politics. Deputy in 2007 then in 2019, always in favor of Ukrainian independence and with a pro-European reforming voice. He resigned each time after a year, preferring to return to music and discretion on the rest. In 2019, many were disappointed that he didn’t throw himself into the presidential campaign. And it was an actor, Volodymyr Zelenski, who then won the presidency.
A song for the “City of Mary”
There remains his ability to bring together Ukrainians through music and galvanize them: “He knows how to put into words what everyone feels. He produces very Ukrainian melodies, which are easy to sing together, and which make us feel part of a whole, bigger than ourselves”explains Alla Lazareva, correspondent in Paris for the Ukrainian newspaper Tyzhden (The week).
One of his latest successes evokes Mariupol, released in May, a few days after the fall of this city on the shores of the Sea of Azov, invaded by the Russians after being 80% destroyed. The song, no doubt taken up on the Zenith stage on Saturday evening, pays tribute to those who defended it, including “the heart and the hands have become accustomed to fighting” but whose “no enemy can break the dream”. Because “the city of Mary will exist as long as the proud Sea of Azov”.