Okean Elzi

Okean Elzi (Океан Ельзи—note that this is the Ukrainian spelling) is a prolific Ukrainian rock band from Lviv. Formed in 1994, they have released nine studio albums since 1998, toured extensively throughout Ukraine, Russia, the majority of Europe, and North America, and are heralded today as one of the greatest rock bands of the former Soviet Union. Beloved in their home country, where they are noted for singing only in their native Ukrainian language, they drew the largest-ever crowd for a live music performance in Ukraine’s history in 2014—packing 70,000 people into the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv.

Born from the ashes of a previous musical outfit, Clan of Silence (Клан Тишi), Okean Elzi had a slow rise to prominence, honing their craft and paying their dues the old-fashioned way (that is, through live performances) prior to becoming successful recording artists. They began largely by working through the festival circuit in Ukraine—opening for Deep Purple in Kyiv in 1996—and expanding their market into Western Europe throughout 1996 to ’97. After these constant live performances, they finally recorded their first album, Where We Are Not (Там, Де Нас Нема—a reference to a Ukrainian proverb equivalent to the English “The grass is greener on the other side”), for the Kyiv-based record label Lavina Music in 1998. The initial success of this first album led to an almost a constant stream of releases ever since, with the band winning numerous awards within Ukraine as well as Best Live Band in the Commonwealth of Independent States in 2007.

In 1999 the band played their first Russian concerts to wide acclaim and larger audiences already familiar with their music. In 2000, they played at London’s famous Astoria Theatre; and in 2006 they conducted their first tour of North America—finding fans wherever they trod. Their most recent album, Without Limits (Без Меж) has only continued their success as they embark on a two-year-long world tour in support of the album throughout 2016 and ’17.

Okean Elzi have also been vocal proponents of democratic movements in Ukraine, throwing their support behind both the Orange Revolution of 2004 to ’05 and the Euromaidan protests in 2013—they even performed during the latter protests. Besides their active support for democratic reforms in their country, frontman Svyatoslav Vakurchuk (Святослав Вакарчук) has also been involved with various charitable endeavors—supporting literacy programs and helping to combat human trafficking—as well as serving as an honorary ambassador of culture for Ukraine and a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Program.

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From their new album, the controversial single “Not Your War” (“Не Твоя Вiйна”):

 

Lyrics for “Не Твоя Вiйна”:

Бій на світанні. Сонце і дим.
Мало хто знає, що ж буде з ним.
Що буде завтра в юних думках?
В когось надія, а в кого — страх.

Приспів 1:
Гілля калин похилилося.
Мама, кому ж ми молилися?
Скільки іще забере вона
Твоїх дітей, не твоя війна?

Стали батьками доньки й сини,
Все кольорові бачили сни.
І цілували руки брехні,
За тихі ночі — віддали дні.

Приспів 1.

Так було добре, там і колись.
Там, де без поту і там, де без сліз.
Тільки не було в тому мети –
Я так не можу, а як зможеш ти?!

Приспів 2:
Гілля калин похилилося.
Мама, не тим ми молилися!
Скільки іще забере вона
Твоїх дітей, не твоя війна?

 

Their hit single “I So Want” (“Я так хочу”) from their 2010 album, Dolce Vita:

 

Lyrics for “Я так хочу”:

Я так млію за тобою,
Як ніколи ніхто не млів.
Так ся дивлю за тобою,
Що й не мушу казати слів.
А-а-…-а-…-а-я-я-я.
Так сумую за тобою,
Як за волею в клітці птах.
І чекаю, і не знаю,
Чи ж то правда в твоїх очах.
А-а-…-а-…-а-я-я-я.

Приспів:
Я так хочу до тебе,
Як до матері немовля.
Я так хочу до тебе,
Як до неба ота земля.

Всі на світі бажання,
Все, що маю, віддав би я,
Лиш би кожного ранку
Називати твоє ім’я.
Я так хочу до тебе…
Як то можна так хотіти,
Щоб всю ніч і чекати знак.
Поки свічка буде горіти,
Поки мила не скаже так
А-а-…-а-…-а-я-я-я.
Я так млію за тобою,
Як ніколи ніхто не млів.
Так ся дивлю за тобою,
Що й не мушу казати слів.
А-а-…-а-…-а-я-я-я.

 

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This entry was written by Michael Filitis, a finalist for a Home and Abroad Scholarship through SRAS.

Michael Filitis is a recent MA graduate from the University of Chicago where he concentrated on early Soviet nationalities policy, propaganda, and the rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe. A recipient of SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship his current focus is the improvement of his Russian language skills with the goal of pursuing a Phd in Russian history and political science. Outside of academia, he enjoys playing and composing music, eating to excess, movies about space, and contemplating a more active lifestyle.