Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra are among the 10 nations to have progressed from the first semi-final of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.
The act are currently favourites to win the overall contest, which takes place this week in Turin amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
Last night (May 10) the first semi-finals were held ahead of Saturday’s (May 14) grand final, with Ukraine progressing along with Armenia, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Moldova, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland.
Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk said following their qualification: “We understand we need to stay focused because we want to promote Ukrainian culture and let everyone know about it, This is our goal.”
Here's the 10 qualifiers from the First Semi-Final! #Eurovision #ESC2022 pic.twitter.com/qxqezFuY9g
— Eurovision Song Contest (@Eurovision) May 10, 2022
Kalush Orchestra, a rap group who formed in 2019, replaced Ukraine’s original entrant Alina Pash, who withdrew from the competition in February, for Eurovision 2022. The group’s track ‘Stefania’ is an ode to powerful mothers.
Speaking to NME this week, Psiuk explained how their taking part was a “huge responsibility”, given the ongoing war with Russia.
“To represent Ukraine in the international arena is always a responsibility, but to represent it during the war is just the highest responsibility possible,” he said.
“The song [‘Stefania’] was composed and dedicated to my mother, but after the war the song has acquired lots of nuances because a lot of people are perceiving it as if Ukraine is my mother,” said Psiuk. “That’s why the song has become so close to the Ukrainian people, and it is in the Ukrainian hearts.”
Watch NME‘s full video interview with Kalush Orchestra’s Oleh Psiuk below.
Russia was banned from competing in this year’s competition following backlash to an earlier statement from organisers saying the country would be allowed to compete despite launching a military assault on Ukraine.
Last year’s Eurovision was won by the Italian band Måneskin, who have gone on to achieve international success, with highlights including supporting The Rolling Stones in 2021.