The Ukrainians grew out of a project started by British 1980s indie band The Wedding Present. The 'Weddoes', at the instigation of their guitarist Peter Solowka, decided to make one of their BBC Radio 1 sessions for the John Peel Show a Ukrainian one. Peter's friend 'Legendary Len' was drafted in as an extra member because he sang, played an authentic Eastern European village fiddler type violin and had been a student of Slavonic languages at Leeds University, The group recorded the first session and it was duly broadcast. In fact Peel played it over and over again.
The huge popularity of the session took the lads by surprise, and the whole thing became more serious when John Peel asked the group to do a second session. This session, for which mandolinist Roman Remeynes was drafted in as a sixth member, was also repeated a number of times.
Public reaction was so great that major label RCA/BMG Records, who had already shown an interest in The Wedding Present, wanted to sign up the group up fast. They wanted the two Ukrainian Peel sessions to be group's first album release. The deal was signed and Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peela effortlessly went to number 22 in the chart and sold 75,000 copies.
After this, Peter and Len went on to form The Ukrainians. The Ukrainians began to write and record songs for their first album. Five of these tracks featured the extended six-piece Ukrainian Wedding Present line-up as featured on the BBC recordings, and five were recorded solely by Peter, Len and Roman. They drafted in Harri Kakoulli - ex bass player with Squeeze and big world music fan - to produce.
The first album, 'The Ukrainians', firmly established the group as the world's major exponent of a new hybrid of traditional Ukrainian folk and Western rock music. The album received such good reviews in the UK and beyond that the group was subsequently booked to play festivals and tours throughout much of Europe. At the beginning of 1993, the group released their hugely successful Pisni Iz The Smiths EP, which included the group's Ukrainianised versions of four classic Smiths songs!
A month later saw the release of the inspired Vorony album, featuring 12 new emotionally-charged Ukrainians' original compositions plus a beautiful and optimistic version of the Velvet Underground's 'Venus In Furs'. This album extended the Ukrainians' popularity to almost every country in Europe.
To promote Vorony, the group played over a hundred concerts as part of a magnificent tour that took The Ukrainians and their music from Western Spain to Eastern Ukraine, covering most of the countries on the way.
Part of this whirlwind was The Ukrainians' August 1993 tour of Ukraine as guests of Ukraine's Ministry Of Culture. The tour culminated in a performance in Kyiv's Independence Square before a crowd of over 50,000 people, an internationally-televised event organised to celebrate the second anniversary of Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union.
Somehow the group found time to record the Kultura album, which was released in October 1994. Its subject matter was influenced heavily by the group's experiences while on tour as guests of Ukraine's Ministry of Culture- Kultura turned out to be responsible for extending the group's popularity to Poland and, via extremely enthusiastic responses from college radio stations and Ukrainian emigre communities, across the Atlantic to the USA and Canada.
By the time The Ukrainians had finished touring the Kultura album they realised that they could no longer keep up the pace. Having spent a number of years eating and drinking too much, sleeping too little and speeding up and down motorways and autobahns in tour buses and transits in order to establish themselves, the group decided to cut back its touring schedule.
Time went by, then towards the end of 2000 Len contacted the others to see if he could track down any live recordings spanning the period 1989-1994. The idea was to see if there was enough material around to compile a live record. Tapes dropped onto his doormat from around the globe and to cut a long story short, the atmospheric 'Drink to my Horse!' was the result, which became the first release on Zirka Records (ZRKCD1).
Once the record was out and receiving favourable reviews in the press, the group decided it was time to get back into the studio again to do something new! So, in 2002 The Ukrainians released their surprise 'Anarchy in the UK' EP (ZRKCDS2), featuring Ukrainianised versions of some classic Sex Pistols' songs, followed in early 2003 by the critically-acclaimed Respublika album (ZRKCD3). Respublika was seen as a return to the spirit of the 'Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela' album: quickly recorded, urgent and vital. The Ukrainians had come full circle. Respublika attracted five star reviews and huge amounts of airplay across Europe and North America and has been instrumental in cementing the group's place in the history of World Music.
Official web-site of The Ukrainians - http://www.the-ukrainians.com/