The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation hosted a roundtable discussion with one of the most famous celebrities in Ukraine – Svyatoslav “Slava” Vakarchuk, lead singer of the wildly popular Ukrainian rock band Okean Elzy.

Besides being a famous rock star, Vakarchuk is recognized at home and abroad as a prominent and thoughtful Ukrainian civic activist.  This fall he was a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law and in 2015, he participated in the Yale World Fellows Program.  He also served briefly as a member of Parliament.  Korrespondent magazine ranks him among the 100 most influential people in Ukraine.

The November 8th discussion at USUF, held under Chatham House Rules, focused on political and economic successes and challenges in Ukraine as well as possible ways to accelerate reforms, integrate more quickly with the West and spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

Participants of a discussion with Svyatoslav “Slava” Vakarchuk, lead singer of Okean Elzy, at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. (Photo by Adrian Karmazyn).

During his time as a World Fellow, Slava Vakarchuk was interviewed by the Yale News, which asked him to describe what kind of political power he finds in music.  Vakarchuk responded:

You know, I don’t try to spin out political messages with my music. Some of our fans have extremely different views on politics than I do, and they still like listening to our music. Other people feel just the same way about politics as I do, and they’ve never heard one of our songs. These things don’t have to go together. But I will say that most of our listeners seem to care about what’s going on in our country, and I’ll connect that back to what’s happening with our society more generally. It’s important to me to be engaged politically, but that’s more related to who I am as a person. You can be political and make political statements without being a politician, and that’s especially true of celebrities. When I make good music, I’m making myself happy. The songs themselves aren’t sending these same political messages that I talk about outside of my music. I find both of those things to be important to me, extremely important to me.”

You can read the entire interview here.

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