Ukrainian band NL shakes up Russian narratives with album launch and packed shows


ST. JOHN’S, NL — As the door to the Ship Pub in St. John’s, NL, swung open Saturday night, a roaring Ukrainian song rang out, spilling down the alley and bouncing off the buildings along the main street of the city.

ST. JOHN’S, NL — As the door to the Ship Pub in St. John’s, NL, swung open Saturday night, a roaring Ukrainian song rang out, spilling down the alley and bouncing off the buildings along the main street of the city.

It was the first night of two sold-out shows by local “Ukrainian-Canadian speed-folk” band the Kubasonics, who released a new album as Russian forces continued their violent invasion of Ukraine.

The band nearly canceled shows when they learned of the attack, said Brian Cherwick, who plays many instruments with the band, including the accordion and the tsymbaly, which is Ukraine’s version of a hammer dulcimer.

The Kubasonics play what Cherwick calls Ukrainian party songs — tunes that would be heard at weddings or other gatherings, but with a modern twist, he said. He figured no one wanted to hear upbeat, stomping dance songs during such a horrible time.

But his wife and family in Ukraine reminded him that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to justify his actions by telling his citizens that Ukrainian culture does not exist and that by playing he would push away that narrative, he said. he declares.

“My relatives said to me, ‘No, go ahead and play that, because you’re proving he’s lying just by doing that,'” Cherwick said while sitting at a table on the ship after a sound check.

Cherwick said he realized that with these shows he would not only show that Ukrainian culture exists, but that it is loved and celebrated, even somewhere as far away as Newfoundland.

The Kubasonics are Cherwick and his two children – Jacob Cherwick on drums and Maria Cherwick on fiddle – with Darren Browne on guitar and Matt Hender on bass. The three Cherwicks are Ukrainians: Brian’s family has lived in Canada for several generations but his wife, also named Maria, was born there, he said.

The Cherwick family is known in St. John’s for their extremely talented musicians. In 2018, for example, Mark Cherwick, then eight years old, made headlines as the frontman of a punk band called Banana Vacuum, shouting in two languages ​​about lawyers, minions and his annoying sister. . His brother Jacob backed him up on guitar and bass.

Brian Cherwick, who is also a professor of folklore at Memorial University and studies traditional Eastern European music, insists he did not force his children to learn music or join his group.

“They sort of learned by osmosis,” he said with a smile.

Last Friday, after the first Russian attacks, the province’s music industry association sent an email to all its members in solidarity with the group.

“A message of love and hope to our Ukrainian members, Kubasonics,” the MusicNL note said, with a link to a report on how the Cherwicks were coping with the news.

Brian Cherwick wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke on Saturday of the outpouring of love and support he felt from the province. The Cherwicks have lots of family in Ukraine right now, mostly in the western region where things are still relatively safe, he said.

Yet, he said, the situation is changing every day.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been particularly welcoming, both to his family and to the Kubasonics and the explorations and experimentations of traditional Ukrainian music, he said.

Newfoundland and Labrador has its own traditional music through which people have long told stories of their struggles and joys. There’s also a rich history of Newfoundland and Labrador musicians revisiting the province’s traditional music and recreating it for their time, he said, citing bands like Figgy Duff or even the early Greats. BigSea.

That’s exactly what the Kubasonics do with Ukrainian music, he says, and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians really get it.

The Cherwicks lived in Edmonton before moving to St. John’s in 2011, and Brian Cherwick also had the band traveling there. But he said it just wasn’t the same.

The band was mostly cast in Alberta, he said, playing maybe at Ukrainian weddings, but not much else.

In St. John’s, they can easily sell two nights at The Ship, a venue that regularly hosts the city’s most popular bands.

“My wife has a beautiful, perfect quote,” he said. “She says, when I was living in Edmonton, I was considered a Ukrainian musician. But in Newfoundland, I’m a musician who plays Ukrainian music.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 6, 2022.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press


About Author

Comments are closed.