Before the Russian invasion and the pandemic, Ukraine had become an increasingly popular destination for club tourists over the past decade. Among the highlights were the biannual Cxema raves — parties in factories, skate parks and even an abandoned Soviet restaurant that united 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 outside politics and just a place where people can be happy and dance,” the D.J., 40, said in a recent video interview from Kyiv.
But as the Cxema platform grew bigger, and Ukraine’s political climate grew more tense, “I realized I had a responsibility to use that influence,” Lepsheiev said, and to look beyond escapism on the dance floor. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February deepened that commitment.
“I think this war has destroyed the statement that art could be outside politics,” said Amina Ahmed, 25, Cxema’s booking and communications manager. “Now everything is about politics.”
As shelling intensified in Kyiv, the city’s tight-knit electronic music community abandoned clubs and synthesizers to shelter with families, volunteer or enlist in the armed forces.