I’ve been featuring this playlist in many of my Hasty Music Reviews lately. However, the playlist is but a small feature of those posts so I wanted to put it out here in the open to make it easy for you to find.
This playlist is all Ukrainian artists from many different genres. There is a lot of incredible talent here. I hope you’ll give it a listen as a show of support for the artists of Ukraine.
In 2014, I was bored with the music on my iPhone and I was still resistant to letting internet algorithms make recommendations to me. I’m less resistant to the algorithms now, but no less disappointed by them now than I was then.
Don’t even get me started with the radio. The constant commercials and the lack of variety make radio in the US unlistenable 98% of the time. Honestly, I’m not sure who listens to it anymore.
I was so frustrated that I was constantly listening to the same music I already owned, rarely discovering anything new. The only time I did was when someone I knew would say “Hey- you gotta hear this new band, you’re gonna love them!” Truth be told, even then the stuff my closest friends recommended to me missed the mark more than it hit. Maybe I’m just difficult to please. Still, I found this to be the only way to find anything that suited me.
I was determined to avoid falling into the trap that so many people fall in to during middle age: they stop caring about new music. I did some ruminating and eventually I landed on the idea of adapting the model of a book club to work for music.
For many of us, the term “book club” conjures a mental image of middle-aged women sitting on plush white couches drinking red wine discussing this month’s recommendation from Oprah or Reese. The concept is simple, someone organizes a group of folks who love to read. The group plans to meet periodically and discuss their thoughts & feelings about a particular book. The idea is elegant in it’s simplicity.
At first, I considered copying the format directly. I figured that I’d choose a new release album prior to the first meeting, tell a few friends, then we’d get together and chat about it over beers. I quickly dismissed that idea for a few reasons.
First off, it’s inefficient. Everyone would only learn about one album each month. Moreover, if the members didn’t like the album or the artist that I picked then they wasted money buying something that they didn’t like. If my taste was different than the other members they would eventually become disinterested and quit.
I considered having a rotation schedule so that each member could assign an album for each meeting. That way I could avoid being the single gatekeeper of taste. This improved the idea, but it was still problematic. It would reduce the probably of people getting frustrated or bored with my musical taste, however, it still meant we’d just learn about one artist/album each meeting. I knew there had to be a better format.
Eventually it hit me. The answer was simple: playlists. Each month a member would volunteer to host the next meeting. The host or hostess would establish a theme for the next meeting. The members would then each create a playlist based on the theme to prepare for the meeting. Then during the meeting, members would each take a turn sharing their a few choice songs from their playlists and describe anything interesting they learned while researching the topic. Members could then share their entire playlist with everyone for their listening pleasure after the meeting or all of the songs could be put on a single compiled super playlist.
Truth be told, the original Kill Your Radio club was short lived. Eventually my hobbies drove me toward other interests, but I still think this concept can work for a lot of readers. This is a simple event to host. Here is what you need:
Creative ideas for topics: Try and encourage the club to do some research in to styles and artists that they may not already know. Remember, the goal is to find music that new to you. In our first meeting the theme was “great protest songs.” I was hoping to find my playlist, but I think it was stored on a computer that died years ago. This topic was wonderful because with just a little bit of research it was easy to find protest songs from just about any genre. I compiled a new playlist (below) with some examples that we listened to that day, as well as new songs I’ve heard since. We also came up with themes of “Sell Outs” and “Songs from Artists Who are Past Their Prime.”
Virtual versus Real-Life Meetings: Hopefully the worst of the pandemic is behind us, but perhaps you’re in a part of the world that is still locked down. You could easily implement this idea virtually with friends all over the world using chat rooms, discord servers, or zoom. Maybe you just have friends in other parts of the world and want to use this as an opportunity to reconnect. Regardless, a virtual club is a great way to learn about music trends around the globe. However, maybe you’re itching to get back out into the real world and see people again. You’ll have to keep reading. There are a few more factors you’ll want consider for a real life meeting below.
Consider the sound system you will use. We had some challenges getting everyone’s devices to connect to the speakers. Sure, that was before Bluetooth was a common feature on devices. You may still run in to challenges though. You may want to ask everyone to add their tunes to a single shared Spotify play list. That way the songs can be easily accessed from a single device.
Snacks! Of course, you’re going to want your favorite treats. Be as bold or boring as you want, it’s about the music- but everyone knows music tastes better with a full belly. If you’re really inspired, try to make the treats correspond to the theme.
Have you ever tried to host a Kill Your Radio club or something similar? How did you do it? What worked and what didn’t? Do you have a great theme for a playlist? If so, please share your thoughts with others in the comments.
Music for Social Movement in the Age of Social Media
All of us have a tremendous potential to influence the opinions and choices of others. This has never been truer than during the age of social media. Posting on our social media pages helps those in our real-life social circles and social media circles to understand what we believe is important, what brings us joy, and what we despise. While it may seem like it is difficult to change the minds of people who disagree with us, it is very easy to amplify our positions with those who already agree with us. This is sometimes referred to as an “echo chamber” and it’s frequently used by nefarious causes to divide us. However, occasionally, it’s used for positive causes like the Ice Bucket Challenge. It demonstrated how people can ban together and use the megaphone given to us by social media to improve our world and in the process manage to have a little fun.
I’m hoping I can use this blog to inspire you to use your voice to support the musicians of Ukraine. In doing so, we can show the nation of Ukraine that we support them in their struggle against the Russian invasion. Perhaps, if enough of us participate, we can send a message to Putin and the Russian people that we are united against this unlawful and unjustified invasion of a sovereign nation.
I’m not going to ask for your money (although I’m sure there are plenty of charities like the Red Cross that would benefit from your generous contribution). What I ask of you will be simple, enjoyable, and you will learn something. You can participate without ever leaving your home. You will not need to dump ice over your head (although you can if you want!) All you will need is a computer or smartphone with an internet connection and a few minutes of time, and an open mind when it comes to listening to music.
The Ask: “Discover” Your Favorite Ukrainian Music and Promote It on Social Media
If you’re like me, you have probably never spent much time listening to Ukrainian Music. There is more than enough music here in my own community without needing to branch out to other parts of the world. The radio stations here don’t play Ukrainian music and the algorithms don’t suggest Ukrainian music to me. If I don’t actively seek it out, I would probably never find it. Luckily, it is easier than ever to find new music if you seize control back from the algorithm and do your own manual searches.
I started thinking about this amplifying effect of social media on the Billboard charts recently, after seeing a video made by Music is Win on YouTube discussing Metallica’s recent rise up the charts with their song “Master of Puppets” after being featured on “Stranger Things.” If you haven’t heard, this song was released in the 1980s, long before Metallica found mainstream success. It is charting now, some thirty years later, in large part due to the social media explosion. I understand Kate Bush is also experiencing another significant bump in popularity due to the same Stranger Things Effect. Music is featured in tv and movies all the time, and rarely does it cause a song to chart three decades after it was released. However, social media chatter- well that’s a different thing entirely.
So, let’s capitalize on that. Let’s start a global conversation about Ukrainian music. I encourage you to seek out Ukrainian musical artists and find some that you love. When you find something wonderful, be sure to share it with others that have similar musical taste. If you like punk music, just google “Ukrainian Punk Music” then go to your favorite streaming service and check them out. Be sure to share links with your friends and be sure to listen to the songs your friends recommend to you. If you feel compelled, purchase merchandise albums from the artist and put some money back in their pockets.
Why Should You Participate
Bring Sunshine On Their Darkest Day
This war has been going on for months, it may go on for many more. Perhaps you’ve already made donations, or taken other actions to support the besieged Ukrainians, but maybe you’re looking for something more to do and you’re hitting a brick wall of ideas. This may be a simple way to show your support without spending any money.
I doubt many Ukrainians have the time to think about global music trends right now but think of the pride they would feel knowing that the world is taking interest in the culture in a show of unity. That may give them amount of solace and we owe that to them.
Financial Support for Musicians
Life for everyone in Ukraine has been upended, not the least of which are the musicians. It can’t be easy to book shows in a war zone, so I imagine many of their careers are stalled either because the venues are unsafe, or because the musicians are actively fighting as part of the resistance.
Although the money made by musicians on streaming services may be modest, we may be able to drum up enough interest to help financial support artists through the months to come.
Even though, much of the live music may have slowed, we can still help the artists by helping to build their fanbase and their reputation internationally. Hopefully when the war is over, they will be able capitalize on any boost of fame that comes of this.
Send a Message of Unity to Political Leaders
This war, like all wars, has a shelf-life. At some point, the countries involved will no longer support the economic and/or political costs of the war. Putin has no doubt calculated that he has the capability to outlast NATOs interest in the war. He’s betting that high gas prices, global inflation, and a world population that is weary from COVID, will wear us all down and support for the Ukraine will dwindle over time.
We can and/should frequently remind Putin that we stand unified with Ukraine. Many national governments are doing so using sanctions, subsidizing the Ukrainian military, or taking other actions, but we have an opportunity to send this message ourselves without the help of our governments. This message may be very powerful to Putin if he sees the people of the world are uniting against him.
Much of the world has aligned in opposition to Russia’s invasion, but there are still some countries that are within Russia’s sphere of influence that have not done so yet. If you live in these countries, and you believe that sovereign countries should not be invaded by imperialist nations, this may be one way you can support the cause even if your government cannot or will not do the same.
Think of the tremendous message it would send to Putin and the world if a band like Somali Yacht Club were to hit number one on the charts. Maybe this will sneak past Putin’s censors and help diminish the political support that Putin still has within Russia.
If For No Other Reason, Do It For Spite
There is a lot of speculation about why Putin has chosen to cause such misery and destruction. Some believe that he’s trying to create a buffer between Russia and Europe/NATO, while others believe his goal is genocide. All any of us can do is guess as to what the despot’s true intentions are.
If genocide is Putin’s goal, then he no doubt will try to eliminate elements of Ukrainian cultural relevance. We can combat this directly by purchasing CDs, LPs, T-shirts, and other Ukrainian musical artifacts and distributing them around the world. Spreading Ukrainian culture will really upset the Russian War Machine… that’s reason enough for me.
How Can You Help?
I’ll post some instructions shortly with specific actions you can take to bring this idea to life. For that to work though, I need you to start listening to Ukrainian music ASAP so that you can find the best tunes in your favorite genres. Here are a few other things you can do in the meantime:
Start researching Ukrainian music. Look into whatever genre and style you enjoy. Find a few songs that you really like and reflect what it is about the song that you like (for instance, the instrumentation, rhythms, etc.)
This will only work if we can get others to help. Please encourage others to join us both online and in real life. Share this post or create your own.
If you have experience about how to do social media activism, please reach out to me. I’d love some help!
Come back to the planm.blog site weekly for more info. I hope to post updates shortly.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out the playlist below. It’s a bit of a hodge podge of genres of and artists. I through this together and haven’t even curated it yet so I’ll refine it as I learn more.
One band that I’ve spent a little time checking out is DakhaBrakha. I really encourage you to check them out. I believe technically their sound is derived from Ukrainian folk music, but I heard elements of hip-hop, ambient rock music, and R&B in their sound. It’s very impressive the sounds they get from traditional instruments.)
One last tip- go at this with an open mind. Unless you speak Ukrainian, you may not understand what they singers are saying. Don’t let that be an obstacle, I’ve already found a lot of incredibly moody and ambient music that is extremely powerful, even without knowing what is being sung. Treat the voice like any other instrument and have fun!