Before the Russian invasion and the pandemic, Ukraine had become an increasingly popular destination for clubbing tourists over the past decade. Highlights included the biennial Cxema raves – parties in factories, skate parks and even an abandoned Soviet restaurant that gathered thousands on the dance floor to a soundtrack of experimental electronic music.
When Slava Lepsheiev founded the Ukrainian techno collective Cxema in 2014, “I thought it should be out of politics and just a place where people can be happy and dance,” said the 40-year-old DJ in a recent video interview from Kiev. .
But as the Cxema platform grew and the political climate in Ukraine became more tense, “I realized I had a responsibility to use that influence,” Lepsheiev said, looking beyond escapism on the dance floor. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February reinforced that commitment.
“I think this war has shattered the claim that art could fall outside of politics,” said Amina Ahmed, 25, Cxema’s booking and communications manager. “Now everything revolves around politics.”
As the shelling intensified in Kiev, the city’s tight-knit electronic music community left clubs and synthesizers to shelter with families, volunteer or enlist in the armed forces.