Sounds, Sights, and Folklore of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine

“My House is on the Maidan” – A Ukrainian’s house may have once been at the edge of the village, an expression suggesting one’s reluctance to voice political views, but during the heady days of the Orange Revolution, the house moved. Written and painted on banners and chanted by millions in a sea of orange, “my house is on the Maidan [Kyiv’s Square of Independence]”, this traditional idiom’s revision is one example of the influence Ukraine’s recent political revolution has had on the country’s folklore.

While elections were validated, retracted, and rescheduled, an organically grown contemporary folklore was budding in a sea of orange tents. Bands rapped, old jokes were transformed to spread news of vote count rigging, graffiti artists sprayed clothing and subway entrances, and the poetic muse paid a visit too. An orange glow spread.

The Orange Revolution fostered a new Ukrainian national identity transforming traditional symbols into a new political awakening. No longer a culture of villages, in the streets of Kyiv, Ukrainians birthed new interpretations of music, poetry, and art focusing the world’s attention on their promising future. Music played a central role in the revolutionary scrapbook. Led by the rap band, TNMK (Dance in the Square of Congo), live music at the Maidan never stopped in sub-zero temperatures. Orange costumes, conceptualist installations made of snow, cartoons drawn on pavement, spontaneous poetry readings, and the “drummers of freedom”, a group of burly mountaineers from western Ukraine banged on drums made from industrial iron barrels, contributed to the carnival atmosphere.

One year later, Ukrainian music made in the cold streets of Kyiv is slowly hitting the airwaves. Poets like Andriy Bondar have found their creative muse once more. Changes are still in the air and though permanent change is slow to come, Ukrainians of all ages are exploring new horizons both cultural and political.