Boom­box leader Kh­lyvniuk lives mu­sic, fights in­jus­tice

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY TOMA I STOMINA [email protected]

An­drii Kh­lyvniuk, the leader of Ukrainian band Boom­box, is one of the most prom­i­nent fig­ures in mod­ern Ukrainian mu­sic.

Boom­box, a band whose style com­bines hip-hop and rock mu­sic, re­cently cel­e­brated 14 years. In 2013, the band re­ceived the Yuna mu­sic award as the best Ukrainian band.

They are also one of the few Ukrainian bands that have re­fused to give shows in Rus­sia af­ter it an­nexed Crimea and un­leashed its war in the east of Ukraine in 2014.

The de­ci­sion, how­ever, hasn’t af­fected the band’s pop­u­lar­ity. Boom­box at­tracts thou­sands of fans to some of the big­gest con­cert halls in the coun­try, goes on na­tional tours, and per­forms abroad.

Kh­lyvniuk, one of the two co-founders of Boom­box, is the lead singer and writes most of the band’s songs.

“I wanted to de­vote all my time to my fa­vorite oc­cu­pa­tion. I dreamed of do­ing what I love all my life. And I'm do­ing it,” Kh­lyvniuk told the Kyiv Post in an in­ter­view on April 3.

Over its 14-year his­tory, Boom­box’s out­put has ranged from light-hearted songs with dance rhythms to lyri­cal bal­lads with philo­soph­i­cal themes.

Right now, Boom­box is in the mid­dle of a tour to pro­mote their lat­est re­lease, an EP called “Holyi korol (Naked king).”

The tour will cover 22 big Ukrainian cities, as well as five other coun­tries — the United States, Canada, Poland, Spain and Por­tu­gal. The band’s show in Kyiv in Novem­ber at­tracted over 10,000 fans.

The band’s au­di­ence abroad is mostly Ukrainian di­as­pora and peo­ple from the former Soviet republics. Kh­lyvniuk says that they per­form on smaller stages abroad, mostly in clubs, and that per­for­mances at sta­di­ums and in small clubs dif­fer greatly.

“Sta­di­ums are cool be­cause you can kick up your heels there,” Kh­lyvniuk said. “But a club gives a di­rect ex­change of en­ergy, and it shows who you re­ally are.”

An­other ex­cit­ing thing that re­cently hap­pened to Boom­box was the col­lab­o­ra­tion with an in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous U.S. brand '47. The com­pany that spe­cial­izes in head­wear de­signed and pro­duced caps for Boom­box: where their caps usu­ally have lo­gos of Amer­i­can sports teams, these ones carry a Cyril­lic let­ter “B”.

Kh­lyvniuk says that the com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives found out that

Boom­box mem­bers have been wear­ing their head­wear for years, and of­fered to work to­gether.

The band now sells the caps through their so­cial me­dia pages for Hr 830–930.

Foun­da­tion stones

Klyvniuk says the rea­son Boom­box has re­mained one of Ukraine’s top bands for so long is that ev­ery mem­ber of their team, in­clud­ing pro­duc­ers, man­agers, mu­si­cians, video, au­dio and light engi­neers, is a fan of what they do.

“Each one of them has the am­bi­tion of be­com­ing bet­ter,” he added.

The band started as a trio — Kh­lyvniuk as the lead singer, gui­tarist An­drii Sami­ilo, and DJ Va­lik Matiyuk.

Over the years, three other mem­bers joined: drum­mer Alexan­der Lyulyakin, bass gui­tarist Denys Levchenko, and key­boardist Pavlo Lytvy­nenko.

Boom­box also has a rare thing to be proud of — not a sin­gle mem­ber has ever left the band. And the pub­lic has never heard of any of their in­ter­nal dis­putes.

Kh­lyvniuk says that Boom­box, like any other group, has ar­gu­ments, but they pre­fer to keep them to them­selves.

“It’s a ques­tion of what you want oth­ers to re­mem­ber about you,” he said.

Protest­ing and sup­port­ing

Dur­ing the EuroMaidan Rev­o­lu­tion, which forced ex-Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych from power in 2014, Kh­lyvniuk was one of the pub­lic fig­ures who sup­ported the protest.

Af­ter Rus­sia started its war in east­ern Ukraine, Boom­box de­cided to give up per­form­ing in the neigh­bor- ing coun­try, de­spite the fact that they made two-thirds of their earn­ings there at the time.

Kh­lyvniuk said he doesn’t hold any­thing against his Rus­sian fans or Rus­sians in gen­eral. How­ever, he says he doesn’t want to ask the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment for per­mis­sion to work in the coun­try and hold events there.

“It (the per­mis­sion) is given by peo­ple with epaulets, the same peo­ple that give or­ders to shoot me,” Kh­lyvniuk said, by “me” mean­ing Ukraine and his com­pa­tri­ots who fight Rus­sian troops and Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists in the Don­bas.

For more than a year, Kh­lyvniuk has been ded­i­cat­ing per­for­mances of their hit song “Nao­dyntsi” (“All Alone”) to Ukraini­ans held as po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in Rus­sia. There are at least 65 of them now, with film­maker Oleg Sentsov and ac­tivist Olek­sandr Kolchenko be­ing the best-known ones.

"It doesn't mat­ter if it's Sentsov, or Kolchenko, or some­one else. They are us," Kh­lyvniuk said.

In 2016, the band’s drum­mer Lu­li­akin wrote mu­sic for a play by the Be­larus Free Theater called “The Burn­ing Doors,” aimed at rais­ing in­ter­na­tional aware­ness about po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion in Rus­sia.

The play tells the sto­ries of three pris­on­ers — Rus­sian per­for­mance artist Petr Pavlen­sky, Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina, and Ukrainian Sentsov. In the part about Sentsov, the ac­tors sing “Nao­dyntsi” by Boom­box.

Af­ter the play was re­leased, Kh­lyvniuk took his ad­vo­cacy fur­ther and spoke about po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion in Rus­sia at the U.K. par­lia­ment along with other ac­tivists in 2016.

While the play has re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim world­wide, it has yet to be per­formed in Ukraine. To­day Kh­lyvniuk is seek­ing fi­nan­cial back­ing to bring it to the coun­try.

To him, get­ting in­volved in the cam­paign to help po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers was a nat­u­ral re­sponse to op­pres­sion.

“There is so much in­jus­tice in the world — grab any one you want, and solve it,” Kh­lyvniuk said.


An­drii Kh­lyvniuk, the leader of Ukrainian band Boom­box per­forms at the band's show in Palace of Sports in Kyiv on Nov. 18, which at­tracted over 10,000 fans.

(Volodymyr Petrov)

The lead singer of Ukrainian band Boom­box An­drii Kh­lyvniuk talks to the Kyiv Post at Ki­taiski Privet restau­rant in Kyiv on April 3.

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