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Music From Free Ukraine

Event will take place Friday, Jan. 20th at 7pm. Event to be held at the Zarrow Center for Arts & Education.

To livestream the event, click here.

Today, defending the idea of free Ukraine has taken on profound urgency, and Ukrainian musicians have been battling tirelessly on the musical front. As the war of Russian aggression grinds on in Ukraine, one of the strongest vectors for strengthening and even expanding Ukrainian cultural identity has been viral musical moments, which have coined, recycled, and rejuvenated anthems and slogans into markers of patriotism and resistance. But this centrality of music to the definition of post-Soviet Ukrainianness is nothing new: in her award-winning book Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, Maria Sonevytsky tracked discourses of belonging in Ukrainian popular music—from the Eurovision Song Contest to reality TV, from Indigenous radio to the revolution stage—during the volatile decade of Ukrainian political history bracketed by the 2004 and 2014 revolutions. In his The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulanbaatar, a New York Times “Best Travel Book of 2021,” musician and writer Franz Nicolay explored the complexities of politics and idealism in the DIY and punk communities of the post-Communist world. Acclaimed poet and translator Boris Dralyuk will host a wide-ranging discussion (and musical performance) on the sonic messages which launch out as—in the words of “ethno-chaos” band DakhaBrakha—”musical ambassadors from free Ukraine.”


Maria Sonevytsky is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Music at Bard College. Her first book, Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, was awarded the Lewis Lockwood First Book Prize from the American Musicological Society in 2020. Her second book, Vopli Vidopliassova’s Tantsion the story behind the watershed late Soviet Ukrainian punk rock cassette album known as Tantsi, will be published in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Europe series in the spring of 2023 and paired with the first official release of the album on the California-based label Org Music. She is currently drafting her third book project, provisionally titled Singing for Lenin in Soviet Ukraine: Children, Music, and the Communist Future, for which she was awarded a 2023 NEH Fellowship. Earlier work includes a number of scholarly articles, and the multimedia Chornobyl Songs Project, conceived in collaboration with the Kyiv-based ethnomusicologist Yevhen Yefremov, the Yara Arts Group, and the Center for Traditional Music and Dance. It was released as an album on Smithsonian Folkways in 2015. In 2008, she and Alison Cartwright Ketz collaborated on a photo and sound installation on Crimean Tatar repatriates, titled No Other Home, which was exhibited at museums in New York, Ukraine, and Romania, and published in article-form on Triple CanopyAs a musician, she has performed most extensively with her Ukrainian polyphony trio Zozulka, her novelty band The Debutante Hour, and as back-up for her husband Franz Nicolay’s solo act. You can read and listen more at


Franz Nicolay is a musician and writer living in New York’s Hudson Valley. In addition to records under his own name, he was a member of cabaret-punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, “world’s best bar band” the Hold Steady, Balkan-jazz quartet Guignol, co-founded the composer-performer collective Anti-Social Music, and has recorded or performed with dozens of other acts.

His first book, The Humorless Ladies of Border Control: Touring the Punk Underground from Belgrade to Ulaanbaatar, was named a “Season’s Best Travel Book” by The New York Times. His second book, the novel Someone Should Pay For Your Pain, was called “a knockout fiction debut” by Buzzfeed; and was named one of Rolling Stone “Best Music Books of 2021” (“finally, the great indie-rock novel…like Dostoyevsky in a DIY punk space”). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, The Paris Review Daily, The Kenyon Review Online, Ploughshares, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. He is currently a faculty member in music and written arts at Bard College and in Columbia University’s MFA fiction program.