The Music Video from the 90s: Ukrainian Underground and Indie

25 october 2019 • Oleksandr Klochkov

In addition to relaxation of censorship and wider opportunities for self-expression, the time of Ukrainian musical underground formation coincided with the beginning of a video era in the Soviet and post-Soviet space. VHS tapes, kept in the musical underground activists’ private archives, give us fragments of the reality, memories of which are preserved in the film by Tetiana Yezhova, various thematic materials, and online discussions.

I decided to compile a selection of the most representative videos from various sources, adding commentary where necessary. Thematic sections and textual parts are arranged in a way so that a viewer can get a general impression regardless of the order of videos and their duration. The nature of records available online doesn't make it possible to create an idealised compilation consisting of only the music subjectively perceived as interesting and unusual. Thus, this material complements and illuminates in a different way the facts given in the text review where I tried to briefly describe a music scene whose history remains an incomplete set of more or less coherent and reliable fragments.

N.B. I use English names of the bands only if they can be recognised by search engines. I added translations for those cases when an original Cyrillic name has a simple and clear meaning.
For long videos that have some interesting moments which you might miss while rewinding, I added the time codes. But I can’t promise that I mentioned all the important highlights.

Musical TV of the 90s

TV Shows

Although local informal groups were sometimes shown on television, a significant part of this section also refers to the atmosphere prevailing in music of that time. All shows are taken from Kyiv television.

1.     ‘Гучномовець’ [1] [Loudspeaker] is the best exhibit from the archive of Volodymyr Bakun, the host of another music show called ‘Решето’ [the Sieve]. The show includes the following: the song ‘Crep-de-chine Machine’ by ‘Коллежский Асессор’ [Kollegskiy Assessor] performed in Novocherkassk [6.19], the announcement of new albums by ‘Yarn’ and ‘Cukor Bila Smert’ [Sugar White Death], a live session by ‘Пластилиновые Негры Навсегда’ [Plasticine Negroes Forever], a side project of Oleksandr Kyivtsev from ‘Коллежский Асессор’ [11.43], a post punk demo record by ‘Rabbota Ho’ performed in the Skew Caponier of the Kyiv Fortress [18.37]. At that time, ‘Rabbota Ho’ was among the most famous underground bands and was promoted by Volodymyr Rudnytskyi who initiated live performances in the Caponier. Young Kyiv-based bands recorded their music in a home studio of the ‘Rabbota Ho’ leader Serhii Popovych. Toward the end of the video, there’s a coverage of underground music news from other Ukrainian cities [24.13], the burning of the ‘Chervona Ruta’ [2] festival diploma, and the entire ‘Kyiv musical independent’ movement depicted in the indecent verses.

[1] The text was written by Tetiana Yezhova, editor-in-chief of the same-name fanzine. The hosts are Volodymyr Chebykin and Oleksii Ovchinnikov from the band ‘Дети Николая Ежова’ (Children of Nikolai Yezhov) named after Tetiana’s elder brother, concert organiser and director of the ‘Rabbota Ho’ band.
[2] For more details about ‘Chervona Ruta,’ check the section about festivals.

2.     ‘Jamix’ was the Anatolii Vekslarsky’s TV show dedicated to the eighth ‘Tavric Rock-n-roll’ [3] festival. It includes snippets of performances by the local band ‘Дорога Ра’ [Road to Temple] [4.10],  the German-language Kyiv-based band ‘Langsames Steuer’ [5.32], sunny indie by ‘Chicken Smile’ from Dnipro [8.53], and also a violent reaction of the special forces to the language in the song ‘7,5%,’ dedicated to gender issues, by the Russian band ‘Н.О.М.’ [19.53].

[3] 'Рок-н-ролл таврический’ was one of the first rock festivals in Soviet Ukraine. The festival had been held in Nova Kakhovka since 1986, the year when rock clubs were officially registered in big Ukrainian cities.

3.     This is a 1995 video about concerts that took place in the Skew Caponier. There’s a pianist Hector Mukomol (Gennadii Melnyk), bands ‘Вежливый отказ’ [Graceful Refusal] from Moscow and ‘Kazma Kazma’ [6.10] from Kharkiv with a recently changed lineup. The Yevgeny Hodosh’s project eventually turns from a combination of medieval and baroque elements with art punk to a more acoustic and intimate sound. There’s no guitar on this record, but there’s a violin played by Oleksii Sova from ‘Товарищ’ [Camrade] and ‘Chichka-Drichka,’ while Oleg Mykhailyuta from the band ‘Т.Н.М.К.,’ members of which will shortly become hip-hop stars, still plays the bassoon. On one of the two keyboards, there’s Oleksandr Kohanovsky (‘Cukor Bila Smert’, ‘Pan Kifared’). Another track by ‘Kazma Kazma’ can be heard at the beginning of the video.

Music Videos

1. ‘Ivanov Down’ – ‘Outch Putch’ (Kyiv, 1991):

2. ‘Ivan Samshit’ – ‘Chariots Of Love’ (Kyiv, 1993):

Here are some music videos from the Moscow TV show called ‘Чертово колесо’ [Ferris Wheel]. Four Ukrainian issues were dedicated to rock music in Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, and Kyiv. The most interesting part of the show is local music videos.

3. ‘Rabbota Ho’ (Kyiv, 1990) – ‘Alpine Astronomical Station’ (graphic art by Yuri Tugushev):

5. ‘Кошкин дом’ [Cat House], Odesa, 1990:

The romance of the roadsides that lead to a satellite city, specific humor and gangsta rap imitation using a German-Anglo-Slavic word mix are depicted in a video from the Kyiv show ‘Jamix.’ All bands are from Kyiv, approximately 1993-1994.

6. ‘Город-спутник’ [Satellite City]

7. ‘Langsames Steuer’

8. ‘Пластилиновые Негры Навсегда’

Other videos (1995 or 1996):

9. «Blemish» (Kyiv) – ‘Paint’ (a Victor Pushkar’s project who gathered the top people of Kyiv music underground of the mid 90s at his home studio)

10. ‘Pirata band’ (Kyiv) – ‘Julia’ (this band from the mid 90s was known by the songs about pirates and love and sounded like The Cure)

11. ‘Приапический Картель’  [Priapic Cartel] (Kramatorsk) – ‘Сигарет’ (was illegally broadcasted on Donetsk television where the lead singer worked)

12. ‘Foa Hoka’ (Chernihiv) – ‘Dia Diaba’ (edited for the release of the second album on ‘Koka Records’, the video appeared on Polish television)

Music videos from the show ‘Територія А’ [A Territory], which appeared in the mid 90s, captured the time where the pop music format was established. In addition to showbiz and eurodance, some electronics from the first raves, flamenco, non-trivial art rock by ‘Biocord,’ videos of ‘Necropolis,’ ‘Всяк випадок,’ and late ‘Ivanov Down’ appeared on the air.

13. ‘Biocord’ – ‘Агресія’ [Agression]

14. ‘Necropolis’ – ‘Dream’

15. ‘Ivanov Down’ – ‘I walk your fish’

16. «Molotov 20»  – ‘Open’

17. ‘Всяк Випадок’ – ‘Бахрома’

18. ‘Second Hand’ – ‘Dream’

Band Archives

‘Коллежский Асессор’ (Kollegskiy Assessor)

This was an obvious legend of the late 1980s. While other Kyiv Polytechnic Institute graduates – ‘Vopli Vidoplyasova’ – were firmly making their way to the Ukrainian rock mainstream, ‘Assessors’ remained the icon for a relatively narrow circle of ‘those who understood.’ Despite this, a year after they started performing as a rock band, which happened in 1987, they performed at the Dynamo Stadium and the band leader Vasyl Goidenko starred in the film ‘Border Locked.’ In 1989, they went to a music festival in Glasgow and had to release a new album in the UK, but shorty some musicians left the band.

1.     Digitisation of VHS with a selection of records: a powerful live performance by early ‘Assessors’ in the ‘Molod’ Publishing House hall (1988, beginning of the video), a performance at the stadium we’ve mentioned [32.29] a music video to the song ‘Hey ali Nihey’ [39.20]. Then, there is a concert from the beginning of 1990 (the same video in colour), a fragment from the ‘Videomlyn’ [Video Mill] show and some videos by the Butuzov’s project ‘Godzadva’ which he created after leaving ‘Assessors’.

2.     ‘Border Locked,’ a film directed by Serhii Lysenko who is known for making the first film starring a Soviet rock star Viktor Tsoi from ‘Kino.’ The lead is played by Vasyl Goidenko [Parts 1, 2 , 3]

3.    The second lineup of ‘Assessors’ consisted of musicians of the younger generation: before or after they played in this band, they were parts of ‘Verba Hlyos’ (Gridin), ‘Sheik Hi-Fi’ (Yugrinov), and ‘Cukor Bila Smert’ (Mazur). Vasyl Goidenko’s wife Nataliya Misyats sang together with him. Media sources referred to their performance at the 1992 ‘Индюшата’ Festival as ‘the only one that could warm up the audience’ meaning not the drive but warm, calm emotions it triggered.

4.    This show by Volodymyr Bakun called ‘Решето’ captured the ‘Assessors’ band 10 years later. The first lineup gathered again in 1998 and recorded a new album ‘Sex-Bomben Auf Engelland’ in a garage. A music critic Roman Pishchalov considers this album the best in their discography and puts special attention to the song ‘freedom, equality, fraternity – illness, oldness, death.’

‘Ivanov Down’

This is another popular band of the Kyiv underground, the most famous one among the noise rock bands of the early 90s. They achieved success owing to expressive performances the recordings of which were saved and posted online by the band director Serhii Deviatkin.

1. There was a film made around the music of ‘Ivanov Down.’ It was named after the band’s most popular song, ‘Nikoli Me Ne Glej V Oci’ (Never Look Me In The Eye). It was made by a Slovenian director who lived at Parkomuna [1] in 1991: some artist studios and artworks can be seen in the movie. Besides Maket (the band leader) and the company, the film features a soundcheck by ‘Langsames Steuer’ [2.06], Foma [2] and his first band called ‘День Умирает Рано’ [Day Dies Early] [12.28], and Vika Vradii who shows her music video on VHS to Ivanov Down’ musicians [20.21] 

[1] A squat with artist studios located on the Paris Commune street, 12 A. It gave the name to the exhibition and the Pinchuk Art Centre research platform.
[2] Later, Serhii Fomenko recorded three albums with musicians from the ‘Yarn’ band in the manner of medieval albums by ‘Niko.’ During the 90s, he was touring as a singer-songwriter until creating the ‘Мандри’ [Travels] band in 1997 together with a keyboardist Oleksandr Kohanovsky (‘Cukor Bila Smert’) and Oleg Vorobyov.

The band’s lineup had been changing over time, while the only constant member was the leader Oleksii (Maket) Digtiar.

2. Live performance at the ‘Чорна Рада’ [Black Council] festival in 1990, the only recording with a saxophone.

3. The festival ‘Полный гудбай’ [Total Goodbye] (1991):

4. The ‘Dead End’ festival (1992):

Live Performances

In this section, I expand the selection of underground festivals, adding music events of different formats and conceptions that give a broader perspective on the Ukrainian independent scene of the 90s and the context within which it existed.


‘СыРок’ [SyRock] was the big rock festival that took place in Moscow in 1988 and gathered young bands from all over the Soviet Union, including bad and good ones. Ukraine (the Ukrainian SSR at that time) was represented mainly by more formatted bands, but Ukrainian rock had already proved itself as a separate from Soviet rock phenomenon. The main discoveries of the 1988 festival were two bands that later became the main stars of Ukrainian rock music: ‘Braty Hadiukiny’ [Hadiukin Brothers] from Lviv who compensated the lack of open aggression or radical political messages in the texts (present in Baltic or Polish punk rock) with satire and irony; and ‘Vopli Vidoplyasova’ (VV) from Kyiv who were praised by Yegor Letov, leader of the formally banned [1] band ‘Grazhdanskaya Oborona’ [Civil Defence]. Successful performance allowed the band ‘Кошкин Дом’ from Odesa to move to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

[1] Nevertheless, ‘Гражданская Оборона’ successfully performed at the festival. The situation can be illustrated by the following Soviet proverb: ‘When nails are being cut in Moscow, fingers are being cut off in Kyiv.’ The band’s first open public performance in Ukraine took place in Kharkiv in the following year despite the pressure of authorities.

‘VV’ (Kyiv)

‘Кошкин дом’ (Odesa)

The festival ‘Червона рута’ [Chervona Ruta]: 1989 and 1991. The first festival which took place in Chernivtsi in 1989 was historically important and was a telling sign of the approaching independence of Ukraine. Blue-yellow flags in the crowd are captured in the video. From the beginning, the festival included a competition: the finalists had abroad performances arranged for them.

‘Braty Hadiukiny’ 

The atmosphere at the final concert: 

The Ukrainian ballad ‘Нема в світі правди’ (There Is No Truth In This World) by Julian Kytasty:

In 1991, this large festival, held with diaspora support, brought together interesting performers and some generic bands that quickly found their way around and chose the Ukrainian language and the right topics for their songs. At the beginning of the recording from the 1991 festival in Zaporizhia, there are such bands as ‘Клуб Шанувальників Чаю’ [Tea Lovers Club] from Lviv and ‘Tabula Rasa’ from Kyiv with more formatted performances. The buffoonery performances by ‘Жаба в Дирижаблі’ [a Frog in a Zeppelin] from Kyiv [15.44] and ‘999’ from Lviv [33.07] go next.

There also was a concert of a 1989 finalist, Vika Vradiy, known as ‘Sister.’

At the same time with ‘Ruta’ and smaller events representing Ukrainian music in general, there were festivals focused on independent rock music. ‘Полный гудбай-2’ is the best documented of the Kyiv festivals. Organised by Tetiana and Mykola Yezhov, it took place in March 1991. It featured ‘Ivanov Down’ from Kyiv, the former Odesa residents ‘Кошкин Дом,’ and two bands from faraway Magadan: ‘Восточный Синдром’ [East Syndrome] and ‘Миссия: Антициклон’ [Mission: Anticyclone].

‘Rabbota Ho’


Among the later Russian indie festivals, it’s important to mention ‘Индюки’ where many Ukrainian independent bands performed, as well as its alternative version ‘Индюшата,’ organised in 1991 by Aleksandr Kushnir. The festival was created partly owing to the disputes over performances of the young bands from the Kharkiv-based union ‘Novaya Scena.’ As a result, ‘Kazma Kazma,’ ‘Чужой’ [Alien], and ‘Эльза’ [Elza] successfully performed at ‘Индюшата’ in 1991 while ‘Ivanov Down’ from Kyiv performed at ‘Индюки.’ In 1992, ‘Коллежский Асессор,’ ‘Черепахи’ [the Turtles] from Kharkiv [15.10] and ‘Sheik Hi Fi’ from Kyiv also performed at ‘Индюшата.’

‘Ivanov Down’ at ‘Индюки-91’ 

‘Sheik Hi Fi’ at ‘Индюшата-92’

‘Dead End’ was another two-day festival held in Kyiv. These 1992 records are accessible thanks to the efforts of archivists and the 90s underground veterans:

 ‘Sheik Hi Fi’ (Kyiv)

‘Relic Trucks’ (Zaporizhya)

Нова територія’ [New Territory] was a festival organised in 1993 by a midi-guitarist Oleksandr Nesterov who was among the free improvisation pioneers in Ukraine. It was the biggest avant-garde improvisation event of the 90s which brought together performers from Ukraine and abroad: Oleksandr Nesterov and Yurii Yaremchuk (Kyiv-Lviv) [13.19], Yurii Kuznetsov (Odesa) [16.15], Ri Nikonova (Eysk, Russia) [18.49], a percussion quartet ‘Ars-nova’ (Kyiv), Petro Tovstuha (Kyiv) [26.13] ‘трио САТ’ [the SAT trio] (Kyiv) [29.50], ААА Theatre and Yuriy Zmorovich (Kyiv) [33.13], There’s a group improvisation towards the end of the video. 

The film was made by Yurii Zmorovych.

Records from the festival ‘Гитарный синдром’ [Guitar Syndrome] held in 1995 in Mykolaiv capture performances by interesting bands from the South and East of Ukraine, now almost unknown. 

‘Будни Модеста Павловича’ [Days of Modest Pavlovych] from Mykolaiv: 

‘Relic Trucks’ from Zaporizhya:

‘Альтернатива’ (the Alternative) was the largest festival for independent bands of the 90s. It was an eclectic mix of marginal and alternative, to a different extent, music and a cheering crowd. The festival was held twice in Lviv, in 1994 and 1995, gathering bands from all over Ukraine, many of which are still known only by these videos made for local television.

This is the video from the first day of the first ‘Альтернатива’ festival in 1994. Here are some notable performances: stars of the Lviv rock scene ‘Мертвий півень’ [Dead Rooster] [17.35],  Svitlana Nianio (‘Cukor Bila Smert’) and Maket (‘Ivanov Down’) [26.54],  a creepy appearance of the band ‘Слимак на пекучому перці’ [a Snail on a Hot Pepper] from Donetsk with a singing drummer [32.02], a speech by a festival ideologist Ruslan Koshiv [41.07].

Performances from the second festival day: ‘Пам’ятки архітектури’ [Architectural Monuments] from Lviv [1.36], acoustic live by ‘Человек Дождя’ [Rain Man] from Odesa, ‘Sky Tale’ from Chernivtsi [9.40], ‘999’ from Lviv, ‘Підле сп’яніння’ [Mean Drunkenness] from Dnipro [23.50], a singer-songwriter Lucy Ugas Corner from Kyiv [36.07], ‘Джемікс’ from Kyiv, ‘Neborock’ (a spoken word project of Viktor Neborak, poet from the BuBaBu group, Lviv) [43.01], ‘V.V.’ from Kyiv, ‘Аукцыон’ from St. Petersburg.

A show on Kharkiv television saved snippets of performances and interviews from the second ‘Альтернативa’ festival in 1995: ‘Рокові Яйця’ (Slavyansk), the best alternative band from Donbass in the 90s that was, by the way, Ukrainian-speaking [1.56], ‘Caterpillar’ (Kyiv), ‘Necropolis’ (Kyiv) [5.35], ‘Relic Trucks’ (Zaporizhya) [11.43], ‘Всяк Випадок’ (Kyiv) [15.08], ‘Черепахи’ (Kharkiv) [19.01], ‘Blemish’ (Kyiv) [19.55], ‘Foa Hokа’ (Chernihiv)[22.06], ‘Ніна та Фактично Самі’ (Ivano-Frankivsk) [24.20], ‘999’ (Lviv) [27.39], and guests from abroad. 

Individual Performances

Here are some rare videos of the bands both well-known within their scene and very little known.

A Warsaw concert of ‘Foa Hokа’ (Chernihiv):

Svitlana Nianio and, apparently, Tamila Mazur (ex ‘Цукор Біла Смерть’, Kyiv) perform songs from the ‘Lisova Kolekciya’ album. The performance is dated by the mid 90s (the record repeats three times).

‘Kazma Kazma’ (Kharkiv). Very young musicians with their first program ‘Пляски Трубадуров’ [Troubadours Dances] at the ‘Agasfer’ festival in Moscow in 1991.

‘Alphonse de Montfroyde’ (Kharkiv, 1994) was a project of a ‘Kazma’ guitarist Oleksii Pylypenko who wrote compositions in the manner of French music of the XII-XVI centuries.

‘Братья & Brothers’ from Zaporizhya:

‘Человек дождя’ [Rain Man] from Odesa:

Improvisation by ‘Апельсиновое Безобразие’ [Orange Disorder] from Kremenchuk, 1994:


Unfortunately, there are no videos accessible online of the most bands from the compilation ‘Сховайся’ [Hide], Igor Tsymbrovsky, and many bands of ‘Novaya Scena.’ I hope that the archives of local musical circles, unavailable to the public at the moment, won’t be lost and will be published online or in physical format. Many thanks to the archivists, including Serhii Devyatkin (Down_rec), Anton Slepakov (‘Вагоновожатые’), Tetiana Yezhova (‘Гучномовець’), Ivan Moskalenko (Dj Derbastler, Ritmika Tapes), Serhii Lytvyniuk (‘Вій’, RockHouse UA), and all whose efforts made it possible to publish all the videos from this selection.

Oleksandr Klochkov is a Kyiv-based researcher and artist. Since 2010, he has been a member of the enthusiast group that explores and gives publicity to the history of Ukrainian independent music. Works with the archives of the ‘Novaya Scena’ union (Kharkiv) since 2016.