SPECIAL TO THE VILLAGE SUN | After a few nail-biting weeks, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has now granted visas to Kommuna Lux, the seven-piece band from Ukraine whose unique brand of “Odesa gangsta folk” will close Ukraine Day at this year’s Village Trip festival.
The band will make its U.S. debut at the festival, playing a concert at Drom, in the heart of the East Village’s Little Ukraine, where they will be joined by such distinguished local musicians as Julie Gold, Frank London and Willie Nile. David Amram, the artist emeritus of The Village Trip whose career defines “world music,” will also play. Profits from the concert, and from the Play-a-Thon for Ukraine and Killing the Silence: A Concert for Ukraine — featuring the Bowers-Fader and Didorenko-Basis Duos, and special guests Ukrainian Chorus Dumka taking place at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery earlier in the day — will support the vital work of the Ukraine Children’s Action Project founded by Dr Irwin and Karen Redlener.
The visa applications from Kommuna Lux seemed in doubt last month. The Village Trip supported the band with an open letter to U.S.C.I.S. signed by Jamie, Alexander and Nina Bernstein, the Maestro’s family; Grammy-winners Janis Siegel, Julie Gold and Janis Ian; Professor Robert Snyder, the Manhattan borough historian; and record producer Alan Abrahams, plus doctors, clerics and other figures from the art world. The band’s manager said he was visiting his parents last week in the war-torn city of Odesa when he spotted the news on the U.S.C.I.S. Web site.
“One year ago, it seemed impossible to realize such plans for a folk band from Ukraine, especially during wartime,” Viktor Lukhodko said. “And now we just have to take the last steps to make the dream come true. We deeply appreciate the help of our agent, Jeanine Renne of Cool Hat Records, and Liz [Thomson] and Cliff [Pearson] from The Village Trip for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to play in the United States. They have supported us all the way and encouraged us to fight on. We are excited to be joined by so many celebrated musicians, including Frank London of the Klezmatics, who have been a big influence on us. We can’t wait to share our authentic music with an international New York audience.”
Lukhodko e-mailed Thomson and Pearson last December, asking if Kommuna Lux might play at The Village Trip.
“We were intrigued and flattered and asked how they knew about the festival,” the fest’s joint artistic directors told The Village Sun. “They explained that they follow the Klezmatics and saw they had played at last year’s Village Trip. It seemed a wonderful opportunity for Kommuna Lux and for the festival, and they were the inspiration for a day of musical fundraising for Ukraine. They are a bunch of brave, unstoppable guys. We can’t wait to meet them and we hope New Yorkers feel the same way.”
Kommuna Lux has been raising spirits and funds across Ukraine since the war began. One of their members is now serving in the Ukrainian army, and money the band makes performing in Europe and elsewhere helps them buy vehicles and supplies for their colleague’s battalion — Military Unit A 4007. So far, they’ve also provided almost a ton of drinking water and taken it to the city of Mykolaiv after Russia cut off the town’s water supply. The band has also bought tools and equipment, raincoats, bandages and flash drives for various army units, as well as surveillance cameras for a bomb shelter in Odesa, and medicine for the residents of Kherson. They have also played concerts for border guards, and for the 110 Mechanized Brigade in the Donbas region.
“The Village Trip is a celebration of arts and activism and Kommuna Lux perfectly exemplify what we are trying to do,” Thomson and Pearson concluded. “And these guys could be big — so book your tickets for Drom on Sun., Sept. 10, and be part of this historic moment. Support them, and the wonderful range of musical events on Ukraine Day. Great music and great fun for the most important cause of the 21st century.”
For more information and tickets, visit TheVillageTrip.com.