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First Ukrainian Music Mixer at FOCUS Wales ‘a beacon of hope’ for artists

ARTISTS from Ukraine are performing in the first ever Ukrainian Music Mixer at leading international music industry showcase FOCUS Wales, taking place in Wrexham this week, from 9 – 11 May.

Indie band Akine, electronic musician NFNR and musician composer Ratmir Bilodid, are performing at the mixer on 9 May, hosted by Music Export Ukraine, thanks to the UK/UA Creative Partnerships programme supported by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute.  A British Council panel discussion about global mobility, and the import and export of music in an uncertain world, compliments the programme. 

Performing at FOCUS Wales gives the featured artists a vital platform to develop their careers amidst the challenges of displacement and uncertainty during the ongoing war in Ukraine. While Akine and Ratmir Bilodid have relocated to the UK, with the ambition of amplifying Ukrainian music on a global scale, NFNR has remained in Kyiv, using their platform to shed light on life in the war-torn region. 

Music Export Ukraine co-founder, Dartsya Tarkovska, spoke about the significance of the Ukrainian Music Mixer for the artists, saying: “Bringing three talented Ukrainian music acts to FOCUS Wales is not just about showcasing their incredible talent on an international stage, it’s about providing a beacon of hope amidst adversity. For these emerging artists, stepping into FOCUS Wales offers them the chance to connect with new audiences, forge vital professional networks, and create a foothold in the global music industry. It’s a testament to their resilience and determination that they refuse to let the turmoil of war stifle their creative voices.”

The UK/UA Creative Partnerships programme, launched by the British Council in collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute, is supporting 14 partnerships between arts organisations in Ukraine and the UK across a variety of art forms. Building on the success of the UK/Ukraine Season of Culture in 2022-2023, the programme has been designed to continue and deepen cultural dialogue and connections between the two countries. 

Speaking about the programme Olena Zoria, Head of Arts, British Council Ukraine, says:

“At a time of immense challenges in Ukraine the UK/UA Creative Partnerships programme is providing vital support to the Ukrainian creative industries and strengthening creative partnerships between the UK and Ukraine. The war has significantly impacted artists in Ukraine and the vulnerability of the Ukrainian music industry is evident: a substantial proportion of young male musicians find themselves on the frontline, bands with male members need to seek permission to travel abroad, 99% of foreign artists have ceased performing in Ukraine, and many music professionals must now seek alternative means of survival beyond the music industry in Ukraine. Our hope is that this programme will help Ukrainian artists to persevere through this difficult time and emerge from the crisis ready to take a significant step forward.” 

In addition to the music mixer, Ms Tarkovska will be contributing to the British Council hosted panel discussion about global mobility, sharing culture and the import and export of music in an uncertain world. Chaired by Camelia Hararap, Head of Arts at British Council Indonesia, the panel features international music industry experts, including Satria Ramadhan from Axean Festival and SRM Bookings & Services Indonesia, independent music journalist Alejandro Castillo, from Mexico, and Daniel Fernando Wahl, DJ, and author at WDR Cosmo, from Germany.

Castillo and Wahl are attending thanks to British Council Wales, which has supported FOCUS Wales to invite a delegation of six key music industry partners from Chile, Mexico and Germany to the showcase this year.

Speaking about the importance of supporting opportunities for cultural exchange, Ruth Cocks, Country Director, British Council Wales, says: 

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“Enabling cultural exchange and network-building between Welsh artists and music industry professionals and their global counterparts is essential for developing sustainable creative partnerships. We’re proud to be supporting FOCUS Wales again this year and to be welcoming music delegates from around the world to experience Wales’ vibrant creativity, connect and exchange ideas with artists and music professionals in Wales and contribute their diverse perspectives to a panel discussion about the critical issue of global mobility in uncertain times. 

“We’re especially pleased to be welcoming Ukrainian artists to Wales and to give them an international platform to showcase their talents. Their resilience in the most challenging of circumstances highlights the power of music to transcend borders and the vital role that culture plays in people’s lives; connecting people to each other and to the wider world during times of conflict.”

Sarah Jones, Programme Manager at FOCUS Wales, adds: “FOCUS Wales places the music industry spotlight on the emerging talent that Wales has to offer the world, alongside a selection of the best new acts from across the globe and interactive industry sessions. Thanks to the British Council’s ongoing support we are thrilled to be presenting the first ever Ukrainian Music Mixer in our line-up this year, and to be developing new links between artists and programmers in Wales and their international counterparts.”

FOCUS Wales takes place from 9 – 11 May in multiple venues across the city of Wrexham, North Wales.