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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Foa Hoka: urbanistic escapism

Members of the well-known Ukrainian industrial music band tell about their attitude to the realism of modern times
2 March, 2010 - 00:00

Contemporary society does not give a single assessment to the phenomenon of escapism. This notion is derived from the Ensglish word escape, meaning to run away. Whereas many intelligent people consider this as leaving reality for the world of illusions or sphere of pseudoactivity, others, not less intelligent, call escapists those who do not want to be trapped within the frameworks of the conventional standards.

The members of the Foa Hoka band, one of the most extravagant on the Ukrainian alternative stage, call their music radical escapism.

Foa Hoka was created in 1991 in Chernihiv by musicians Dmytro Kurovsky (vocal, synthesizer, and flute) and Vladyslav Dykhtiarenko (synthesizer, guitar). It started to broaden its geographic frameworks almost since its very beginning, taking an active part in the action of the Kharkiv Creative Association, New Scene. In 1994 it was joined by the Kyiv musician Ivan Moskalenko (bass guitar).

They play urbanistic music composed by city residents: industrial artistic tendencies of the 1990s, polyphony united with emotionally quiet singing, and with folklore traditions. For a second decade already it has remained faithful to its creative origins, composing ever new musical ideas with an urbanistic pivot.

In the 1990s, Foa Hoka successfully toured Eastern Europe, took part in large-scale New Scene festivals. Since 1997 it has been cooperating with experimental video projects of Sampled Pictures Creative Unit, an artistic association from Kyiv. The video works produced as a result of this cooperation were shown in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, France, Russia, and the US.

In 1999 the Foa Hoka musicians created the label SKP Records, which releases their own and spiritually-affiliated industrial projects.

In 2002 Foa Hoka became an open group for any artists who uphold the same principles as its participants.

At the moment the band mostly works in a studio. Their music has grown more complicated and more refined; musicians are using a whole range of instruments: flute, violin, copper instruments, synthesizers, bass guitar, guitars... In the urbanistic music one can distinctively hear new wave, techno psychodelic ambient, and experimental rock. This January the SKP Records Studio released the compilation Tracks Off: The History, Vol 2 (1993 - 2009), which included new and unreleased before tracks followed by videos released in the CD/DVD/web EP format.

The author asked one of the band’s founders, Dmytro Kurovsky, to tell about Foa Hoka’s current activity. Musicians Serhii Dubrovsky and Yevhen Khodosh (founder of an interesting group from Kharkiv, Kazma-Kazma), as well as Oleh Chorny who represents the art union called Sampled Pictures Creative Unit, also took part in the conversation.

The open project Foa Hoka continues to be joined by other radical escapists.

Should the audience be prepared for listening to your music?

“Yes, it is necessary. For quite a while we observe and study the ‘unprepared audience.’ And we understand that these people present an acute form of indifference. Foa Hoka’s music is a sort of rough caricature to the ‘idiot-styled’ cult of the 20th and 21st centuries. Our music is an invocation, like voodoo, with energy aimed at the very heart of the conscious non-intelligence of the inner and external slave.”

Do you ever experience friction between your creative and normal, philistine, lives? Or do they manage to peacefully coexist?

“In our opinion, there is no harmony between creative and philistine environments.”

You deal not only with music, but also with numerous art projects. How do you manage to cope with everything, for this requires a lot of energy and physical strength?

“We try to equal Lee Scratch Perry. He copes with everything at the age of ‘over 70’” (Lee Scratch Perry is a legendary Jamaican performer of reggae and dub-music. — Author)

Is music for you a means of escape or relinquish?

“Music for us is a deep revelation and joy. It is also something very exciting, and a dream!”

Why do you use synthesizers so frequently?

“Synthesizers are very helpful in experimenting. They have an expressive moment of suddenness and the effect of alternative themes, a magnificent sound galaxy.”

What do you think, can the images of the city and the road merge in music? In my opinion, a road is a notion which has little relevance to urbanism.

“A road is an image, including the city, a place of our destinies and love.”

To what extent is the audience allowed to disagree with the picture offered by the Foa Hoka videos?

“What does it mean, allowed or not? Neither musician, nor video maker can allow or forbid anything to the audience. In its turn, the audience cannot forbid the musician to compose music, or the director – to shoot a film. Indisputably, the picture is a means of imposing one’s idea of illustrative decision, like any kind of video or the filming of a literary piece. It is like an illustration in a book, which is also imposing one’s vision of characters on the reader. The audience always has an inalienable right not to accept this visualization, or the idea – to push the remote control button, to switch off the TV, to leave a specific website, switch off the computer, or to stand up and leave the theater while a film is being screened. A creative person, too, has an inalienable right to consider that the audience has not yet ‘grown’ to acception and understanding of the product s/he created.”

Is your music connected with reality, or are the images all invented?

“Music is a reflection of life, showing alternative realities or telling various interesting stories and secrets. Every modern musician can be compared to a radio station broadcasting his music, and it is only natural that during the process a familiarization of the invented images and reality takes place.”

Tell us about the SKP Records.

“The title encodes the word combination ‘Escape records,’ records of an escapist. We created the label in 1999. We released cassettes and disks of local industrial and hardcore groups. Later the SKP Records focused on eletronic music, dub and ambient streams. This year we already have 90 releases of Ukrainian musicians’ works. Besides the albums of Foa Hoka and VzyalSoundSystem, they include the historical compilations Dub In UA: Ukrainian Dubstyle Chronicles, and a series of releases ‘Suburban Dub.’”

Have you ever desired to remake the music you already composed?

“The most interesting inventions by Foa Hoka are developed and live for many years. Such compositions as ‘Good News,’ ‘Forgotten Hit,’ ‘Telescope,’ ‘Sound You’re Nothing,’ have transformed into new music forms. Our ideas are shared by many talented contemporary musicians, not only Ukrainian, but European as well. Therefore music is in the state of permanent development.

“The open art project, presented by Foa Hoka, is the best proof that blaming escapists for breaking away with the real world is quite exaggerated. The broadening of geographical and cultural boundaries is a strange means of mutual understanding between people who speak different languages and have grown on different music traditions. Recently the leader of the renowned American group Gogol Bordello, Yevhen Huetz, a long-time partisan of Foa Hoka, has included the band’s new track in his DJ performance. This means that very soon the urbanistic music of Foa Hoka will intertwine with the music of faraway city exotics.”

The article uses the information from the official website of the band www.myspace.com/foahoka

By Tetiana YEZHOVA