Okean Elzy lead singer Vakartšuk: 'My guitar is my machine gun'

Okean Elzy lead singer Svjatoslav Vakartšuk
Okean Elzy lead singer Svjatoslav Vakartšuk Source: Veronika Monakova

Top Ukrainian rock band Okean Elzy are set to play at Tallinn's Saku Suurhall on Thursday evening. In an interview with ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade" ahead of the show, lead singer Svjatoslav Vakartšuk discussed his experience of performing to troops on the frontline in Ukraine. He also thanked Estonians for helping his country since Russia's full-scale military invasion began in February.

In the interview, Vakartšuk said, that the band's show on Thursday will be slightly different to their performances on previous tours, with their set list having naturally been adapted to reflect the current circumstances.

"We will sing some songs, which are definitely dedicated to the situation in Ukraine now," said Vakartšuk.

He explained, that, while usually the band behave in a "very loose way" at shows, due to the  circumstances, that has not been the case on their current tour.

Okean Elzy have been playing concerts in cities across Europe over recent months, raising attention to the situation in their home country, with Vakartšuk observing a sense of unity throughout the continent, that seemed unthinkable just a year or two ago. The huge outpouring of support for Ukraine in Europe has also not escaped his notice, with the Okean Elzy front man looking forward to expressing his gratitude to the Estonian people in person at the show on Thursday.

"In this respect, I need to admit that the Baltic countries, namely Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are doing a tremendous job in supporting Ukraine," he said, adding that at the Tallinn show, he would also like to express thanks to the Estonian people on behalf of everyone in Ukraine.

When Russia launched its full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February, Vakartšuk, who is one of Ukraine's most famous rock stars, had no hesitation in signing up to join the army, where he was designated the rank of lieutenant. However, the Okean Elzy front man was told that the best way he could help Ukraine, was to keep doing what he does best; playing music.

"My commanders advised me to go and support the troops, not by using a gun, but by doing what I'm doing. As my machine gun, I'm using my guitar," he said.

Vakartšuk has already given 140 solo performances on the frontline, saying that now, he misses these performances even more than playing big shows in stadiums and arenas.

"It's acoustic, Bob Dylan style. I'm just playing my guitar and that's it," he said. "Sometimes it's in the trenches, literally for 15-20 people. But, I don't care, I just need to do it, because it's the right thing to do. It inspires the soldiers and it inspires me."

When asked if there had been any close calls while playing on the frontline, Vakartšuk admitted, that he had encountered dangerous situations three of four times, but that it was nothing compared to the risks being taken by the soldiers defending Ukraine from Russian attacks.

"I certainly don't put myself at risk just for the sake of taking a risk. But, sometimes you never know because it's the frontline. They can shell you, they can bomb you," he said. "But, I have to do it. These guys on the frontline, who are actually fighting, they put their lives at risk to a much bigger extent than me. So, I think I can do what I do."

Vakartšuk concluded the interview by thanking the people in Estonia "for everything you are doing for us. Ukraine really loves you," he said.

The full Ringvaade interview with Svjatoslav Vakartšuk, which was conducted in English, can be seen here.

Okean Elzy will play at Tallinn's Saku Suurhall on Thursday, September 8. The concert starts at 19:00, with tickets still available here.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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