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Interview: How Go_A Blends Ukrainian Folk With Electronic Music

Cover photo by Maksym Butchenko

 

Go_A is the Ukranian EDM group taking the music industry by storm. Formed in 2012 by producer Taras Shevchenko and singer Kateryna Pavlenko, the act reimagines Ukrainian folk music as modern electronic dance tracks. Go_A puts a brand new spin on traditional stories passed down through generations, interweaving rich Ukranian culture with cutting-edge electronic sounds. Pavlenko's use of the ancient Eastern European folk "white voice" technique creates an immersive, one-of-a-kind listening experience.


Photo by Lukas Gruseckas

Immediately following the Russian Federation's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, all of the band members were forced to flee their homes and seek asylum from the violence around them. Now, the group is back performing live to raise money and awareness to aid Ukrainians affected by the war. Specifically, Go_A's A Hand For A Hero initiative strives to generate $100,000 to give Taras Kozub, a talented musician who lost his arm while defending Ukraine in the war, a new biomedical prosthetic arm and rehabilitation program. The band plays an active role in providing relief to those in need, using its platform both to educate audiences about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and to celebrate their cultural heritage through artistry.


Photo by Pieter De Clercq

Although the group gained international exposure through their performance at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, their discography and acclaim extends far beyond the competition. Single "Веснянка" won the National Competition Best Track in Ukraine 2015, resting at number one on the Kiss FM Ukraine 10Dance chart for six consecutive weeks. The radio station also named the track their Discovery of the Year. Go_A's latest single, "Dumala", dropped on November 23, 2023, perfectly capturing the lively energy of the traditional fairytale on which it is based.


In the Ukranian folk story, a young woman faces a difficult choice between her true love and a seductive, wealthy man. She is offered a life of luxury as long as she leaves her partner and home behind. Although she ultimately declines the offer, "Dumala" encapsulates the building push-and-pull tension of the situation, as well as its storybook whimsy. A playful flute introduces the song before other dance and traditional elements enter the arrangement. Pavlenko's free-flowing, open vocal technique shines through during the hook sections leading up to epic instrumental dance jams. A stripped breakdown section brings new dynamic value to "Dumala" and creates space for an especially climactic finale.


We spoke with Go_A founding members Taras Shevchenko and Kateryna Pavlenko about their inspirations, efforts to aid Ukraine during wartime, new music, and more. Check out "Dumala" and read the full interview below. What do you want to see covered next on Enharmonic Magazine? Let us know.


 

How and when did the band form?

Taras Shevchenko: Go_A formed in 2012, however, a year before I had the idea of starting a new band that would combine electronic music with live guitars, percussion, and “something interesting”. At the time I had played in different metal bands as a guitar player for more than ten years, but I always had a passion for electronic music. Basically, I wanted to start an electronic music band that would look like a rock band onstage. I figured out the “something interesting” part during my trip to India in 2012–I went to this theatrical performance next to the seaside and there was a woman that went on stage and started to sing a Ukrainian folk song. For me, it was the sign I had been waiting for, so right after my return to Ukraine I started to look for a folk singer… that’s how I met Kate. We tried to write one song, we liked it, and the rest is history. From 2012 to 2019, we had several changes in the band–it wasn’t easy to find somebody who would understand the concept of combining electronic music with Ukrainian folk music and would do it out of pure enthusiasm. In 2019, we met our woodwinds player, Ihor, during our stay at the festival in Poland. He was performing there with a Ukrainian folk ensemble. Later that year Kate met our guitar player, Ivan.


How does Ukrainian folklore and culture inspire your sound?

Taras Shevchenko: Our culture is our soul, our essence, our heritage. For a couple hundred years, Russians have been trying to erase it from existence. During the Soviet Union times, a lot of Ukrainian musicians, artists, writers, and poets were executed just for embracing Ukrainian culture and language. Now we can speak our language and play our Ukrainian music in countries all over the world. It’s very inspiring and it motivates us to keep on doing that. Our singer, Kate, studied Ukrainian folklore at university. She went on these so-called “folk expeditions” to record old people singing ancient folk songs. Those songs weren’t something you can find in a book. A lot of those people told Kate their life stories and we have songs based on inspiration from those moments.


"Our culture is our soul, our essence, our heritage."

Share about your use of the Eastern European White Voice technique.

Kateryna Pavlenko: I first heard this way of singing from my grandmother. She had an amazing voice. Folk songs have surrounded me since childhood because Ukrainians always sing; we have songs for every occasion. I partly used this style when I was making my first steps in rock music. This sound, when you start to sing, feels like a release of emotion and it has power, volume, and emotion. I can sing "normally" and mix at concerts, but I think White Voice has its own incredible energy, its own color and cultural code of our country.


Why do you love electronic music?

Taras Shevchenko: I listen to almost all genres of music, from classical music to death metal. I

can go to a Snoop Dogg or a Sting gig and the next day go to a Cannibal Corpse gig. What I really value about any music is energy and emotions, and with the right approach, you can have them both in electronic music. In fact, you can fit any other musical genre into it. For example, the Prodigy or Pendulum sound like metal bands sometimes, and some melodic trance artists can sound pretty symphonic. Basically, electronic music has no limits; you can do whatever you like. That’s why I love it.


What is the meaning behind the name Go_A?

It’s really quite simple. Go as the verb and A as a Greek letter (Alpha) which resembles the

beginning of everything: home, roots… even of God. So basically, the name of the band means going back to our roots, but since alpha can mean different things, one can put one’s own meaning into “Go_A”.


What was your experience like at the Eurovision Song Contest?

It was a life changing moment for us. Before Eurovision, we were kind of a no-name band–people liked our music, but since we had no resources for promotion, our audience was limited. Eurovision gave us a perfect opportunity to present Ukrainian music to the whole world, to gain a new audience. I believe most people in US or European countries had never heard such music before. A lot of our listeners from abroad even started to learn Ukrainian. After Eurovision, we know that anything’s possible if you believe in it.


Tell us about your single “Vorozhyla”. What is it about? What was the most challenging part of writing and producing it?

Kateryna Pavlenko: I wrote this song especially for the soundtrack to the highest-grossing film in the history of Ukrainian cinema, Dovbush. The film was my first debut in cinema; I played a healer who raised the main character from the dead. To write the song, I had to study archives and expedition records of Carpathian Molfars. While working on the song, there were several strange events and things that happened and were difficult to explain. Real mystery. The most difficult part of making the song was to find a sound producer who would help me to create the sound that I heard in my head. Then, I had to wait two more years for the film to finally be released. The premiere was postponed several times because of the Coronavirus, and then the war.


What advice do you have for beginner electronic music producers?

Taras Shevchenko: There is no universal formula of becoming a good musician or a popular one. The only piece of advice I can give is pretty obvious: don’t try to copy somebody else’s music or style. Be yourself, listen to your own emotions, and see where they can take you. Be very stubborn and work, work, work.


How has the war in Ukraine impacted the band, and the music industry at large?

Taras Shevchenko: There’s no Ukrainian who hasn’t been impacted by war. A lot of ordinary

people joined the military after the start of a full-scale invasion and I believe every family in

Ukraine has relatives or friends who have been killed or injured defending our country or just of

constant bombing of Ukrainian cities. We have always tried to write songs with positive emotions–about love, unity, nature, or being good to each other, but it’s next to impossible to compose such songs or write lyrics when you’re sitting in a bomb shelter together with other men, women, and children because Russians have launched another 10-20 missiles aiming at Ukrainian soil (obviously NOT military objects). Sometimes we feel deep pain inside ourselves and it's hard to go on stage to play positive vibes when the only thing you want to do is to call your loved ones to know if they’re ok. We have some really dark thoughts in our minds, but we don’t want to sing about war. Of course we have some dark songs in our performances now, but at the same time we want to tell people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And we will definitely win.


"We have some really dark thoughts in our minds, but we don’t want to sing about war. Of course we have some dark songs in our performances now, but at the same time we want to tell people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And we will definitely win."

How can fans best support you and Ukraine’s other musicians?

They can do a lot of things really. They can donate to Ukraine, fight the Russian propaganda

machine, and help Ukrainian refugees. But the main thing is to maintain critical thinking and stay open minded–then a lot of people would understand we’re not fighting just for our land or our freedom, we’re fighting for the right of democracy to exist.


What’s next for Go_A?

Conquering the stages of Multiverse and doing a big show in Kyiv after Ukraine’s victory over evil.


Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your music?

Yes, but in order to do that you need to go to our show!


Who are three more artists you think we should cover on Enharmonic Magazine next?

Dakhabrakha. You should definitely listen to them if you start exploring Ukrainian folk music.

Balaklava Blues is a Canadian-Ukrainian electronic folk band… they’re great musicians and our good friends. Motanka is a one-of-a-kind folk-metal band from Western Ukraine.


 



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