Kiev, Ukraine. Site of the big Ukrabilly rockabilly festival. Home to EXCELLENT Ukrainian rockabilly band the Wise Guyz. So we traveled thousands of kilometers (and miles) just to visit Kiev and get a little glimpse of their punk, psychobilly & rockabilly subcultures.
Despite our best efforts to interview the organizers of Ukrabilly rockabilly festival in Ukraine, it was a big NYET! (well, that is not true. Actually, it was just bad timing as they were on vacation too so we didn’t get to hook up with those guys), so I can’t tell you much more about the rockabilly scene in Ukraine beyond what the Wise Guyz shared with us back in 2010 when we were both visiting Moscow Russia (below).
I know, it’s there. It has to be. There is just too much $, too many changes since “independence”, too much political strife still going on, the imprisonment of one of their former prime ministers (some say for petty offenses that amount to political retribution), too much corruption (money rules the day and the people who rule the people), too many Babushkas (old ladies or grandmas), begging for spare change (imagine your dear old grandmother having to do that) for there not to be a burgeoning punk scene to protest these injustices and gross inequality.
When I checked into my apartment, I was literally feet away from the Kiev Ferrari dealership. I don’t think I’ve seen such a concentration of expensive vehicles in one place than in Kiev’s City Center.
Now I haven’t been to Monte Carlo or other money havens, but I have been to over 25 countries and Kiev’s City Center has more Porsches, Ferraris, Audis, Jaquars, Mercedes and BMWs parked along it’s wide pedestrian sidewalks than than anywhere else in the world that I’ve traveled.
There was money and luxury galore and according to my contact there, a local resident whom we’ll call Alex, it would be rare if that kind of car was purchased by $ gathered from any means other than what could be deemed as dishonest. According to Alex, graft and corruption are so ingrained in Ukrainian life now, that it is almost impossible to achieve wealth in Ukraine without being dishonest. Alex describes it as “unsustainable” and thinks the system will “collapse in on itself” eventually.
Justice? Well, it appears injustice is as common as the cheap, little blueberries sold on the street that are “allegedly” grown at Chernobyl (I found out after I had ingested a good 2 or 3 cups of these potentially radioactive delights.. gulp!).
While graciously showing me around the sites of Kiev, Alex relayed to me a story that had been in the local papers where a pedestrian had been mowed down by an SUV. The victim died and when his family took the driver (who happened to be quiet wealthy and connected) to court, the judge, a close friend of the driver, rather than recuse himself, judged the dead pedestrian’s family to be liable for the damages to the SUV! The judge ruled that the victim must have thrown himself under the vehicle in order to purposely damage the man’s SUV. Incredible.
There are too many stories of the current President tearing down historic buildings (Kiev is one of Europe’s oldest city) to build heliports for him and his rich buddies.
But is this anything new…government corruption, cover ups and dishonesty?
This kind of stuff goes on all the time from Havana to Guatemala City to Moscow to Washington DC. There are just different degrees and as Alex expressed, the difference in Ukraine is perhaps the blatant nature the public officials get away with it. At least in the U.S. they have to sneak around and work a little… I suppose.
Yet, Kiev is a lovely city. It felt extremely safe and by and large, the protest and tent city to free the jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko notwithstanding, people seemed pretty happy with the current system. Parents snapped photos of kids in front of the Ferrari dealership and almost every time I walked by, some one had their nose pressed against the window, daydreaming about the day they might be driving one of those $100,000+ machines.
But I know from my travels, looks are deceiving. Rockabilly music is big in Ukraine, that we know. And we know Rockabilly started off as rebel music but those days are gone.
In such an otherwise beautiful country where unfortunately corruption and inequality is rubbed in people’s faces so blatantly, what are punks doing? Are they trying to expose the corruption and injustice in Ukraine? Or are they just so happy that things have gotten “better” that they are satisfied with the status quo?
I know you are out there. What do you say punks? Are you there? Give me a sign, give me a “Da! We are here!” Let me and the world know you are alive and fighting the good fight.
Below is a video segment we produced on the popular punk band Tarakany! (Cockroach) from neighboring Moscow who tour Ukraine quiet often. Enjoy!