All-Ukrainian music station Molode Radio marks milestone

by Zenon Zawada
Kyiv Press Bureau

KYIV - Upon arriving in Kyiv to study, Stanislav Shumlianskyi noticed Ukrainian radio was anything but that.

"It was quite strange that Ukraine's capital didn't have a single radio station that played Ukrainian music exclusively," he said.

The one radio station that excluded Russian music from its playlist, Radio Kyiv on 98.0 FM, was spinning Western and American tunes.

With a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Mr. Shumlianskyi, along with his classmates, launched Molode Radio and began operating out of a dingy basement on the campus of the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy.

Molode Radio celebrated its first anniversary on April 28, marking a year of playing the music of such Ukrainian stars as Tartak and Okean Elzy, but also giving exposure to those largely ignored by Ukraine's commercial radio stations, such as Haydamaky, Maria Burmaka, Neon and Plach Yeremiyi.

Also instrumental in launching the radio station was a Kyiv commercial outfit, Radio Lyuks, that's guilty of playing mostly Russian and Western pop music.

Not only did Radio Lyuks give Molode Radio its Ukrainian pop music collection of 200 to 300 MP3 songs, but it also allowed use of its radio frequency, 69.68 FM, for which it owns the license.

Once the station got up and rolling, finding more Ukrainian pop music wasn't hard at all. Artists and their agents began sending Molode Radio their MP3s in hopes of getting their songs heard in Ukraine's capital - an unattainable goal for most Ukrainian musicians.

1,200 songs, 70 hours

Molode Radio's current library includes 1,200 Ukrainian pop songs capable of filling more than 70 hours, Mr. Shumlianskyi said.

Since it's not a commercial radio station, Molode Radio doesn't limit itself to playing the hottest songs, repeating them over and over.

Its DJs can reach back as far as the 1980s, playing long-forgotten bands such as Braty Hadyukiny and even diaspora favorite Vika.

"We have 24 hours to fill, so we aren't oriented around playing big names," Mr. Shumlianskyi said. "We are about playing quality, contemporary music. So we inquire about who's the artist afterwards."

Molode Radio has revealed the remarkable diversity of Ukrainian pop music.

On its playlist is the barbershop music of Lviv-based Pikardiyska Tertsiya, whose songs include innocent melodies such as "Starenkyi Tramvay" (The Old Tram Car).

Singing Ukrainian words with thick accents, a group of African students called Chornobryvtsi released a catchy reggae rendition of the folk classic "Tyzh Mene Pidmanula" (You Deceived Me), which Molode Radio has been spinning in recent months.

Even the Toronto-based diaspora group, Khudi a Motsni, have made the Molode Radio playlist.

Diversity has its limits though. Molode Radio aims to appeal to a broad audience and avoid music that can turn people off, Mr. Shumlianskyi said.

Therefore, punk rockers such as the in-your-face Borsch don't receive much airplay.

Politics and fashion are among the topics of five weekly programs. Ukrainian pop music historian Oleksander Yevtushenko will soon begin a show discussing the latest in the burgeoning industry.

Molode Radio isn't a household name in Kyiv. Mr. Shumlianskyi estimated between 6,000 and 7,000 listeners.

Just like Ukrainian musicians, the radio station copes with severe constraints. Its frequency on the FM dial is 69.68, unreachable for most radio tuners that are rarely capable of searching lower than 88.0.

Though it survived a year, Molode Radio might not reach its second anniversary.

The $18,000 in U.S. grant money ran dry last year, and so did a smaller Swiss government grant, Mr. Shumlianskyi said.

Ironically, it's grant money from foreign governments that has kept Molode Radio alive. The Ukrainian government hasn't given a cent, despite letters requesting help.

"At the end of every month, I'm not always sure that we'll make it to the next month," Mr. Shumlianskyi said. "We're in a struggle for survival."

Commercial prospects remain grim because of its low position on the FM dial.

Ukrainian diaspora fans who want to listen to pop music 24-7 will be glad to learn that, within days, Molode Radio will begin broadcasting over its website,

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, May 14, 2006, No. 20, Vol. LXXIV

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