War Rap: In Ukraine, an angry voice for a furious generation

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – From the battlefields of Ukraine comes rap music – filled with the anger and indignation of a young generation who, once the battles are over, will surely never forget and perhaps never forgive.

Otoy, a Ukrainian rapper turned volunteer, articulates the war and booms out baselines, tapping lyrics on his phone under Russian shelling, with the lights dimmed to avoid becoming a target. It helps numb the nerve-racking stress of a fight.

“Russian soldiers drink vodka, we make music,” said the rapper, whose real name is Viacheslav Drofa, a sad-eyed 23-year-old who didn’t know he could kill until he had a Russian soldier in his sights and pulled the trigger. in the early weeks of the war.

One of the ironies of the February 24 invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin is that by ordering the destruction of Ukrainian towns and villages, he fueled one of the very things he wanted to extinguish: a rising tide of fierce Ukrainian nationalism, forged in the blood of tens of thousands of Ukrainian dead and the misery of millions who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods and peace.

Just as many people in France found it impossible to exonerate Germany after two invasions a quarter-century apart in World Wars I and II, young Ukrainians say more than three months of brutality have filled them with burning hatred for Russia.

In France, the antipathy for anything German lasted a generation or more. It wasn’t until 1984 – four decades after Nazi Germany’s capitulation – that French and German leaders Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl were able to stand hand in hand for reconciliation at a WWI memorial in France filled with the bones of the dead.

In Ukraine, the young generation born after the country’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 also say that they can only imagine their whole lives being disgusted by Russia.

Otoy’s lyrics, with exquisite expletives aimed at Russia and stark descriptions of Russian war victims, speak from the heart – he lost his older brother, a soldier, in the siege of the Azovstal steel mill in the ruined port city of Mariupol.

But they also give voice to the cold anger shared by many of his colleagues, now poured out in songs, in art and tattoos, online in hashtags proclaiming “death to the enemies” and memes targeting Putin, and in fundraising activism. for the war effort.

In “Enemy,” one of four new songs Otoy wrote between and during battlefield stints, sending ammunition and weapons to frontline troops, he snarls at Russian soldiers: “We’re not scared, but we’re nauseous, because you smell old, even if your heart is still beating. Bullets await you, sinners.”

He envisions a mocking conversation with the widow of a dead Russian soldier, singing, “Well, Natasha, where’s your husband? He is low in a swamp, face down. Natasha, he’s not coming home.’

Others dig the war out too.

In the furious heavy metal track “We will kill you all”, the band Surface Tension screams: “We will dance on your bones. Your mom won’t come for you.” The expletives song has racked up more than 59,000 views since its April 5 release on YouTube.

Iryna Osypenko, 25, was one of the concertgoers at a music festival last weekend to raise money in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where Otoy gave a fiery performance. She burst into tears as she explained how the growing reservations she had about Russia before the invasion had turned into anger.

“I hate them and I’m sorry, it will never change,” she said. “I will explain it to my children and I hope my children will explain it to their children.”

Otoy says if he has children, he will do the same, telling them, “the Russians killed my family, killed my brothers, my sisters, bombed our theaters, hospitals.”

“It’s not just that I don’t like Russia, I hate this country, and I hate Russian people as much as I can,” he said in an interview at his apartment in Kiev, where he takes out and stores his weapons and combat equipment.

“If I had the opportunity to save the life of a dog or the ability to save the life of a Russian soldier, I would choose the dog.”

His older brother, Dmitry Lisen, is missing, presumed dead in the bombed-out ruins of Mariupol’s Azovstal steel factory. He was a fighter with the Azov regiment, one of the units that clung to the surrounded factory for nearly three months and became an enduring symbol of the Ukrainian resistance.

Otoy dedicated his song “Find My Country” to the defenders of Azovstal – rapping in English with the aim, he says, to reach “people all over the world”.

“This is my country, you must go,” he sings, holding a rifle and dressed in combat gear in the YouTube track’s video. “Miss those Fridays we used to have, kisses, twilights, refuse to sleep. Now we are soldiers.”

His last duties included assisting in a military hospital with the triage of bodies from Azovstal, transferred by Russian troops in an exchange. His brother’s remains are still missing.

He is also working on his collection of songs written largely during repeated munitions flights to troops in the east, where fighting has raged since Russian forces were pushed back in their first attack on Kiev.

Themes include life at the front and the camaraderie of soldiers, war life for civilians, enmity and fighting for Ukrainian freedom. He says the mini-album smells like ‘the smell of war dust’.

“I was actually on the ground under the air raids and bombing,” he said. “You can really feel the smell of, you know, like bombs, corpses and dust, blood and other things.”

“I think this is the best way to show your hatred.”

Hanna Arhirova contributed to this report.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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