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go_a byIrynaKalenska01Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
15th May 2024
Go_A - “Ukrainian Magic Tour 2024”

GO_A is an Electro-Folk band from Ukraine representing their country at Eurovision in 2021, visited Hamburg on the 15th of May within Ukrainian Magic Tour 2024. Ivan Hryhoriak’s guitar riffs, Taras Shevchenko’s electronic beats, the sounds of various traditional Ukrainian instruments played by Ihor Didenchuk and the mesmerizing vocals of Kateryna Pavlenko created an indescribable magic atmosphere, filled with traditional Ukrainian symbolism, humour, and faith in victory.

GO_A is a Ukrainian folktronica band. They would have represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2020 in Rotterdam (Netherlands) with the song ‘Solovey’. However, the competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The band instead represented Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 with the song ‘Shum’, finishing in 5th place. GO_A is the brainchild of Taras Shevchenko who in 2011 had the vision to combine modern electronica with his Ukrainian Folk music heritage, the band’s name aptly consists of “Go” as “movement” and “A” from the ancient Greek. Towards the end of 2012 GO_A released their first track ‘Kolyada’ (Christmas Carol). Kateryna Pavlenko, who provides lead vocals, has studied folklore most of her life. Kateryna can sing with the so-called “white voice”, an authentic folklore singing technique, and has a command of extreme vocals. Kateryna was an ethnic vocal coach for arts students. She writes songs and music for GO_A and her solo project.

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Taras Shevchenko is a keyboards / percussion player and the sound producer of GO_A. He works in various music styles and knows how to combine completely different elements in music, like the Ukrainian sopilka, heavy guitar riffs and Techno. Taras writes music for GO_A. Ivan Hryhoriak grew up in the Carpathians. He has been playing the guitar since 12. Ivan has been experimenting with musical styles and sounds, including acoustics (finger style), Prog Metal (bass guitar), double bass in a Folk orchestra, and electric guitar. Ihor Didenchuk is a folklorist and unique multi-instrumentalist whose rich musical arsenal includes such traditional Ukrainian instruments as sopilka, frilka, floyara, telynka, trembita and drymba. Ihor returned to Eurovision in 2022 as part of the Kalush Orchestra, who went on to win the competition with a record-breaking 631 points and the third time that Ukraine have won the competition.

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Music & Performance
GO_A’s style of music is commonly referred to as Electro Folk / Folktronica, a hybrid genre of music that mixes the acoustic instruments found in Folk music and some types of Indie Rock with the drum machines and synthesizers inherent in electronic music. However, many European music critics note that the band’s style is closer to Techno, or to Drum’n’Bass, and also find elements of Heavy Metal in it. Though to be honest for us GO_A have always been an electronic dance band with Gothic influence. Anyway. The musicians themselves admit that their music goes far beyond any genres. And this is wonderful, because the audience of the band is very diverse, and the main thing that pleasantly surprised me at the concert in Hamburg was that there were more foreign guests in the hall, not Ukrainians, who for one reason or another, in particular the war of course, turned out to be in Germany. Not at all, the band really arouses great interest among Europeans. Perhaps also due to the mixture of traditional national clothing, driving rhythm and traditional themes that the band uses in their work. It really impresses and fascinates the audience. And participation in Eurovision Song Contest certainly contributed to their popularity. That’s why it is still necessary for Ukrainian bands to take part in such contests, despite the musical style. It really works well.

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In early 2020 GO_A would come to worldwide attention when they were shortlisted as one of the sixteen acts competing to become Ukraine’s Eurovision entry with their song ‘Solovey’ (transl. ‘Nightingale’), qualifying for the national finals where they won both the jury and public vote. On the same day that Eurovision 2020 was cancelled, it was announced that GO_A would represent Ukraine in 2021 - unfortunately, due to Eurovision’s rules GO_A would have to compete with a different song, this was a huge blow as ‘Solovey’ was one of the favourites to win the 2020 contest. GO_A submitted their song ‘Shum’ (transl. ‘Noise’) as their entry for Eurovision 2021, but the song was not originally accepted as Eurovision deemed that it was too similar to the original Folk tune and therefore contravened their very strict rules. The song was re-worked and eventually accepted in the form that would bring them worldwide recognition. GO_A went on to place second in the public side of the vote in the Eurovision final 2021.

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Their lives changed forever when on 24th February 2022, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. In the first days of the war, all band members were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in safer places. They have been on tour since that fateful day, promoting awareness of Ukrainian culture and raising funds to support their homeland. As I wrote above, the Fabrik club in Hamburg had a more European audience than Ukrainians, I managed to talk to some of the foreign fans and they confirmed that they had learnt about the band thanks to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2021. At the beginning of the concert GO_A immediately gave the fans exactly what they wanted and opened the show with the Eurovision version of ‘Shum’. Everyone was very excited. Fabrik is a very stylish event venue, and really looks like a small abandoned factory. The 2nd floor was closed that evening; however I was allowed to go up there and take photos from there, which was very supportive. I liked some of the shots so much that I even had an idea to photograph Kateryna Pavlenko in the studio (I found her so photogenic and able to pose), although I think there are quite a lot of people like me.

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The band’s performance was as always energetic and cheerful, and the audience met each song with great enthusiasm. Before each song, Kateryna told the fans in English a little story about what the song was about, and it looked a bit funny because almost all the songs of the band are about a Ukrainian young girl, who always gets into different stories. I was particularly pleased to hear ‘Kol’orovymy farbamy’ (transl. ‘Coloured paints’) live - Kateryna’s vocals are truly stunning and wonderfully unique, we were also treated to the ethereal ‘Solovey’ before heading back to some hard dance with ‘Kalyna’ (transl. ‘Guelder Ros’). During performing the new song ‘Krip’ (transl. ‘Dill’) was a funny situation, when Kateryna took a poster with the inscription “I’m looking for dill for borscht” from one of the fans and began to explain where she saw good dill, where you can buy it and cook delicious borscht. In general, the connection between the musicians and the fans was like a meeting of old friends; several times Kateryna hugged those standing in the front row, and at the end of the concert everyone, without exception, jumped and danced with her.

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01. Shum
02. Kol’orovymy farbamy
03. Kupala
04. Zhal’menina
05. Krip
06. Solovey
07. Vohni
08. Tserkovka
09. Rusalochki
10. Flute solo (performed by Nazar)
11. Band solo (Band playing without Kateryna on stage)
12. Kalyna
13. Veselo
14. Dumala
15. Rano-ranen’ko
16. Nebo v dolonyakh
17. Shum (Original version)
18. Solovey
19. Veselo
20. Zhal’menina

Music: 10
Performance: 10
Light: 8
Sound: 9
Total: 9.3 / 10

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All Pictures by Iryna Kalenska

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