When Russia invaded, the lead singer of one of Ukraine’s biggest pop rock bands swapped out his mic for his clothes and headed to the front lines as a battlefield medic.
Singer Taras Tobulia has now taken on an additional role, joining forces with pop star Ed Sheeran to raise relief money for Ukraine.
Mr. Sheeran and Mr. Topolia’s band Antytila this week released a new video for Mr. Sheeran’s song “2Step” for 2021, which shows Mr. Topolia singing about his personal experience of the war.
The sirens interrupted our sleep. Mr. Topolia sings in Ukrainian. “Grab it all in two bags, then go! Go!”
“My friends and I became soldiers and joined the regional defense forces on the first day of the war. Ukraine will achieve victory.”
The music video was recorded in the cities where the battle took place – Irbin, Kharkiv, and in the Kyiv theater named after the famous Ukrainian writer Lesya Ukranka.
Mr. Topolia’s part on the road between his battalion’s combat positions in northeastern Ukraine, he said, was recorded in part using a GoPro.
“The sites are always under fire,” he said. “It’s very dangerous to stop there for more than 10 minutes because Russian drones and snipers are working.”
As for the soundtrack, Mr. Topolia said his studio in Kyiv was inaccessible as Russia began attacking the capital on February 24, but the band found a studio in nearby Hostomel. He said the crew came under Russian fire when they were filming parts of the video in Kharkiv.
Mr. Sheeran, who was not available for comment, filmed the original “2Step” video in Kyiv before the war began. In that video version, Mr. Sheeran posted a note saying “I stand with Ukraine”.
Collaboration with Mr. Sheeran began after this year Antella offered to play at the Ukraine Concert in Birmingham, UK, where Mr. Sheeran was also performing. Topulia said the party’s organizers turned down Antita’s offer due to their members’ links to the Ukrainian military.
But later on, he was approached by Mr. Sheeran’s representatives to propose cooperation.
The video has racked up more than 10 million streams since it aired on Monday, according to Mr. Topulia’s representative. The money raised from Youtube video proceeds will be sent to Music Saves UA, a music trade organization in Ukraine that has refocused its efforts to help refugees during the war, according to a statement from Mr. Sheeran. The Save Music could not be immediately reached for the comment.
Mr. Topulia said he became a medic in the current conflict after serving in that role during the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Donbass region. He said he has assisted many wounded soldiers in the current conflict and prepared them for a possible chemical attack using gas masks and medical antagonists such as atropine.
In Ukraine, Antiela attracts stadium crowds with thousands of people. When touring other European countries and in the United States, the crowds are much more modest. The band, for example, played in New York at the 450-person Cutting Room in 2018.
Were Messrs. Sheeran and Tubulia known to each other before the conflict? “I knew about him of course; his songs are very popular in Ukraine. But I don’t think he knows who I am.”
“General web ninja. Total explorer. Problem solver. Unapologetic troublemaker. Coffee guru. Pop culture maven. Student. Organizer.”