War rap: in Ukraine, an angry voice for a furious generation | Economic news

By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — From the battlefronts of Ukraine comes rap music — filled with the anger and outrage of a young generation who, once the fighting is over, will surely never forget and forgive maybe never.

Ukrainian rapper-turned-volunteer-soldier Otoy puts the war into words and hits the baselines, typing lyrics under Russian bombardment on his phone, the light dimmed to avoid becoming a target. It helps numb the nervous stress of combat.

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

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

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

In France, the antipathy for all things German lasted a generation or more. It wasn’t until 1984 – four decades after Nazi Germany’s surrender – that French and German leaders Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl were able to hold hands in reconciliation in front of a World War I monument. in France filled with the bones of the dead.

In Ukraine, the younger generation born after the country’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 also say they can’t imagine feeling anything but distaste for Russia for the duration of their lives. .

Otoy’s lyrics, with choice swear words directed at Russia and stark descriptions of Russian war dead, speak from the heart – he lost his elder brother, a soldier, in the siege of the steelworks of Azovstal in the devastated port city of Mariupol.

But they also give voice to the cold fury shared by many of his peers, which now spills over into song, art and tattoos, online in hashtags proclaiming “death to enemies” and memes targeting Putin, and in fundraising activism for the war effort.

In “Enemy,” one of four new tracks Otoy wrote between and during his stints on the battlefield delivering ammunition and weapons to front-line troops, he grumbles at Russian soldiers: “We don’t We are not afraid, but we are nauseous, because you feel stale even when your heart is still beating. The bullets are waiting for you, sinners.

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

Others laugh at war too.

In the furious heavy metal track “We will kill you all”, the band Surface Tension shouts: “We will dance on your bones. Your mother will not come for you.” The swear-filled track has racked up over 59,000 views since its April 5 release on Youtube.

Iryna Osypenko, 25, was among the spectators at a fundraising music festival last weekend in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where Otoy gave a fiery performance. She broke down in tears as she explained how the growing reservations she had about Russia before the invasion turned into rage.

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

Otoy says that if he has children, he will do the same, telling them: “The Russians were killing my family, killing my brothers, my sisters, bombing our theatres, our hospitals.

“It’s not just that I don’t like Russia, I hate this country and I hate Russians as much as I can,” he said in an interview at his apartment in Kyiv, where he records and stores his weapons and combat gear.

“If I had the ability 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, believed dead in the bombed-out ruins of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. He was a fighter in the Azov regiment, among the units that stubbornly clung to the surrounded factory for nearly three months, becoming an enduring symbol of Ukrainian resistance.

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

“This is my land, you should leave,” he sings, holding a rifle and dressed in combat gear in the YouTube video for the track. .”

In recent times, he has notably helped in a military hospital to sort the bodies of Azovstal, handed over by the Russian forces during an exchange. His brother’s remains are still missing.

He is also working on his collection of songs largely written during repeated rounds of munitions being fired at troops in the east, where fighting has raged since Russian forces were pushed back during their initial assault on Kyiv.

Themes include life on the front lines and the camaraderie of soldiers, wartime life for civilians, enmity and the struggle for Ukrainian freedom. He says the mini-album reeks of “the smell of war dust”.

“I was actually lying on the ground under the airstrikes and shelling,” he said. “You can actually smell, you know, like bombs, corpses, dust, blood and stuff.”

“It’s the best way to show your hate, I think.”

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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