I finally got to see Foma perform live! The frontman of Ukraine’s famous folk-rock, blues, ska group Mandry was the headliner at a benefit concert for Ukraine in Toronto, organized by the NGO Dopomoha Ukraini. The concert was part of an event called, “A Weekend for Ukraine: Rock, Reforms & Relief.” Proceeds are going to Patriot Defence, and the ATO Widows Rehabilitation Program. The evening also featured Michael Shchur and the Lemon Bucket Orkestra.
Last minute addition Yana Bilyk turned out to be a friend of the friend I went to the concert with. We went early since I had to pick up my ticket at the door, so I got to sit in the front row. And saw Foma do his sound check.
John Moskalyk, one of the organizers, acted as the MC. He opened the evening with a big thank you to the performers and the audience. The house was full. John even worried that there may be more people in the room than fire regulations allowed. Kids, seniors, teens, and the middle age crowd mingled comfortably.
The most powerful part of the concert for me was when Foma sang «Hrady Vohnyani» (Fiery Hrad Rockets). It’s a song he recently composed while visiting the war zone, where Ukrainians regularly face incoming fire from Hrad rocket launchers. Hrad means hail. Before singing it, he told the audience that volunteers and soldiers he’d met said they listen to the song at the front.
But always the performer, Foma then moved to a more upbeat note, and soon had people not only moving to the music in their seats but standing up and dancing. His energy touched me and, as he danced and sang on the stage, I found myself rising from my seat and joining in. A colleague from another university drifted over and began spinning me across the improvised dance floor.
“And now for the last song, it’s a slow one,” Foma said, or something like that. But after the «last song» the audience asked for more. So Foma obliged. A few times.
Finally, he said, “I think you all know the words to this last, last song.” And began singing Ukraine’s national anthem. He changed the first few words to “Є і буде Україна,” (Ukraine exists, and it always will.) Of course, the audience joined in.