In music and in life, Ukraine’s Ruslana always takes centre stage. After winning Eurovision 2004 with her ethno-dance number “Wild Dances”, she emerged as a leading figure in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. In 2012, she launched the human rights campaign “Don’t Keep Silent” to challenge Ukraine’s (highly arbitrary) judicial system. And during the early days of the Euromaidan protests in 2013, she sat with protestors for up to ten hours a night. America’s First Lady Michelle Obama later honoured her with a prestigious “Woman of Courage” Award. And to think: it all started with Ruslana working it in a loin cloth at Eurovision.
Our partners at OGAE Ukraine love their country’s biggest Eurovision legend, so when they bumped into her at the recent Eurovision Gala Night in Luxembourg they just had to cozy up for an interview. Among other things, she says she’s been in the recording studio for four months working on a new album, which will drop in February or March of 2016. It will be “wild and rock”, and once again make Carpathian traditions sound modern and alive. Power, politics, pop — you can read highlights of the chat below.
She has no regrets about Eurovision.
If I regret anything about it, no one will ever know. It was a huge and exhausting moment, which always happens to normal people when they feel a critical burden. But I never keep this idea in my head longer than a few seconds. Eurovision altered the whole course, not only of my life, but also of the development of modern Ukrainian music. We musicians started to demonstrate and develop our own authentic and exotic music. That’s now being implemented in modern music trends globally. It was a breakthrough for everyone.
On staying true to herself:
People are always happy when they’ve opened new doors. You understand that “You can do it” and that is probably the most important thing that Eurovision did for me. It’s then that Ukraine said, “We can now do more than we could do before.” Every victory brings such feelings. But you know: victory is very difficult to fight for. And it’s not just that you want to stay at the top. We have never run just for success — even at Eurovision. Our most important goal was to protect ourselves, to remain ourselves, and in today’s world it is very difficult. There are always so many temptations, especially when producers tell you that you should do a song just primarily so you can get in the charts. We said no, we want to make music. We want to be true to ourselves, we want to do as we feel. We do not want to lie to the audience. We want people to feel our true energy — the energy that we store in ourselves, born in Ukraine, in the Carpathians.
Ruslana: Eurovision Gala Night Luxembourg
About Carpathian culture:
We want to give it to the world, because Carpathian culture is one of the oldest in the world. No one has studied it thoroughly, but I am sure that UNESCO would have great interest if it would search in more depth what is preserved in the Carpathians. The secret rhythms, the secret tunes, the unique dances…these wild dances actually come from the Carpathian Mountains. These are people who simply were not afraid at all — they have this positive energy in their hearts. In today’s world it’s so hard — people want to have things through artificial simulation, while we like it naturally. We still think people carry natural, real positivity. This appeal to “go wild” does not mean that you should just be crazy. “Be wild” means to stay true to you. It was most important to us!
Why her Eurovision win was significant for Ukraine:
I am very glad that we took part in the Eurovision Song Contest, won and created a good image for Ukraine, and made it possible for social processes in Ukraine to develop when Ukraine experienced its independence. Rising cultural projects motivate the country. Sometimes it opens up many prospects.
On Ukraine’s recent struggles:
For Ukraine, integration means saving the values that we already know. In each of the events that happened during Maidan [on Independence Square] and elsewhere, Ukraine has defended its own independence. This is the only thing that was important: to preserve the country. We didn’t want to stretch our borders, even with the tragedies that happened for us in the Crimea and Donbass. I remember the concerts I gave in Crimea and in Donetsk. Their black technology did not work in Ukraine. All people have the power, through culture and music, through simple things. It is stronger than money, stronger than political manipulation. People have proved that we are stronger than corruption.
On singing for Ukraine at Eurovision again in the future:
You know, I’ve often thought that I miss the energy and atmosphere of Eurovision. If fate put before me the choice, and I could see the opportunity to take part and take me and my country to a new level, then I would do it! I do not want to try to win again. I do not want to just try for such a success — it is not a motivation I have. We must understand that with our actions we are pushing for a better world in the future. If I feel that it would make a new push for Ukraine to contemporary music….then yes, I would do it!