Fokstroty is an experimental side-project of the Literary Laboratory of the Mystetskyi Arsenal within the project on Ukrainian futurism, FUTUROMARENNIA. The Fokstroty project is curated by Oksana Shchur.

The project has two components: the Fokstroty album, and the Fokstroty musical and poetic performance on stage.
The Fokstroty album consists of 11 tracks and animations that are now freely available on the YouTube channel of the Mystetskyi Arsenal. The texts and phonograms of recordings used here are by Mykola Bazhan, Mykhail Semenko, Geo Shkurupii, Pavlo Tychyna, Oleksa Vlyzko, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Volodymyr Sosiura, Raisa Troianker, Natalia Uzhvii, Leonid Pervomaiskyi, Serhiy Zhadan and others.
The album premiered on October 28, 2021 in the Mystetskyi Arsenal during the Fokstroty musical and poetic performance (performed by Yuriy Gurzhy, Serhiy Zhadan, and Lyuba Yakimchuk).

Photo: Oleksandr Popenko © Mystetskyi Arsenal

Participants of the project:
Composer and music producer: Yuriy Gurzhy
Script: Serhiy Zhadan, Yuriy Gurzhy
Project curator and producer: Oksana Shchur

Yuriy Gurzhy — keyboards, guitars, bass, beats, audio arrangements, vocals
Serhiy Zhadan — vocals

Eugene Manko (La Horsa Bianca) — saxophone (tracks: Bazhan. Intro; Sosiura. Dub Chanson)
Lyuba Yakimchuk — vocals (tracks: Semenko. Hello; Troianker. Tiger Lilies; Bazhan. Never (again!))
Grigory Semenchuk — vocals (track Bazhan. Never (again!))
Semenko Children’s Choir (tracks: Bazhan. Intro; Bazhan. Disneyland; Tychyna. Clarinets; Vlyzko. Fire):
(conducted by Halyna Pechenizhska):
Polina Pechenizhska
Sofia Pydko
Anhelina Stadnyk
Maria Fomina
Yelizaveta Kyseliova

Diana Martsynkovska — vocals (tracks: Sosiura. Dub Chanson; Troianker. Tiger Lilies)
Marichka Litynska — vocals (track Troianker. Tiger Lilies)

Terra Studio — vocals recording
Shpytal Records — mix & master
Grycja Rd — collages
Eugene Arlov (Photinus studio) — video animation

© PE NACMC Mystetskyi Arsenal

What is this project about?

Serhiy Zhadan, participant of the project:
“It is surprising that sometimes we don't notice how poetry that is called classical, textbook poetry, is in fact contemporary and alive. We had great poets, they wrote plastic and musical lyrics that you want to sing and recite. That’s what we are actually doing.”

Yuriy Gurzhy, participant of the project:
“How would Ukrainian pop music sound if poets who lived 100 years ago joined in its creation? Would Pavlo Tychyna be inspired by modern disco sounds? What would have happened if Serge Gainsbourg (whose parents were born in Kharkiv and Odesa, by the way) recorded erotique pop inspired by Raisa Troianker's poems? And what would Lee Scratch Perry’s reggae sound like if he'd used Volodymyr Sosiura's lyrics?
Our Fokstroty project is an attempt to answer all these questions.”

Oksana Shchur, curator of the project:
"In the past, we used to make mockery of old poets, and now their best poems become islands of nostalgia in the ocean of irony. You can “break through into the radioether of death” by arranging a disco party together with them. Fokstroty is a disco for a wide range of people, for you and me, for culture workers, for teachers and students.”

More about the tracks in the Fokstroty album:

Bazhan. Intro
The sound of the stairs creaking in the Slovo House for Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine, built in 1930 as housing for professional writers; most of the first residents were later subjected to repressions). On the air we hear Mykola (Nick) Bazhan (1904-1983), one of the most prominent Ukrainian poets of the 20th century. A recording of his voice can be heard first, with the refrain about Melodies of the Space Age. And then, from Kharkiv in the 2020s, comes Serhiy Zhadan (b. 1974) who reads a poem by Bazhan about the sensuality of the foxtrot.

Bazhan. Disneyland
The founder of Italian futurism, writer Marinetti (1876-1944) functions as a human beatbox alongside vocals by Serhiy Zhadan, a rock star of contemporary Ukrainian poetry. The text is by Nick Bazhan, a futurist of 1920s Kharkiv: “Spin, world, spin, circus, spin, o carousel! And a sharp-edged firework flies up above it all…”

Tychyna. Clarinets
“And I watched, and I springtimed: The planets harmonized. Forever I learned that You are not Wrath, but rather Clarinets of the Sun.” These lines describe streams of coloured light pouring through church stained glass windows.
This poem by the impressionist poet Pavlo Tychyna (1891–1967), familiar to every Ukrainian schoolchild, is given a jaunty electro-pop overhaul here.
The role of Tychyna is played by Ukrainian actor Oleksandr Hai (1914–2000); the role of the typewriter — by a typewriter from the Kharkiv Literary Museum.

Vlyzko. Fire
“Fire, fire! — I long for superhuman love! Let the blood boil in the breasts of the young! I take thee, O my thorny world, Into the embrace of the sun!” Oleksa Vlyzko (1908–1934) lost his hearing at the age of 13; at 19, he published his first volume of poetry; at 26, he was sentenced to death by the Soviet authorities. His short literary path was full of experiments: in classicism, futurism, agit-poetry. In his work, he was active, ironic, and full of solid and sublime pathos.
At the beginning we can hear the voice of Leonid Pervomaiskyi (1908–1973), a Jewish poet and front-line radio correspondent during World War II; the connection between these two is not obvious, except for the fact that for a short time their paths crossed in the same time and space.

Hariaiv. Danse macabre
The last futurist poet in Kharkiv, Volodymyr Hariaiv (1914–1997) managed to pass the torch, and his memoirs, to young poets of the 1990s, including Serhiy Zhadan. His presence in this album bridges the gap between the “Executed Renaissance” (as the repressed generation of the 1920s/1930s is often known) and the present day.

Shkurupii. Drums
Can you hear someone dialing a rotary phone? “The King of futuroprairies”, the panfuturist Geo Shkurupii (1903-1937), is answering the call with his love lyrics: “When your eyes are under me, your breasts and your body… The drum of sorrow is beating, my worldly heart… Even now, being so close, you cannot understand the drummer, when the stars are drawing a line, and find death in the ether.”

Semenko. Hello
“Take, take my breath, Use my energy for the new world. My Body is for destruction, My Spirit is a hello to the unknown.” Ukrainian literature’s major futurist, Mykhail Semenko (1892–1937) says “Hello” to his co-residents at the Slovo House. Hello, says his wife Natalia Uzhvii (1898-1986). Hello, says Volodymyr Sosiura. Salām, adds Nick Bazhan. Hello, echo Serhiy Zhadan and Lyuba Yakimchuk from the 21st century.

Sosiura. Dub Chanson
The master of love lyrics Volodymyr Sosiura (1897–1965), who is also the author of the canonical poem “Love Ukraine”, sings a chanson over a dub beat. Then Serhiy Zhadan picks up his lines: “I will go walking down the streets, where cars are speeding and white smoke is melting, where drunken prostitutes are passing by and shouting hoarsely.”

Troianker. Tiger Lilies
Raisa Troianker (1909–1945), a poet from avant-garde circles, came to Ukrainian literature from a Jewish shtetl. She is said to have left a traveling circus, where she worked as a tiger tamer, because of an affair with Volodymyr Sosiura. Here they are singing a duet.

Zhadan. Dead Poets
The final composition of the album begins with a poem by Mykhail Semenko about Mykhail Semenko in the rhythm of incantation. Then there is an early poem by Serhiy Zhadan, the co-author of this album: “Of all the literature and all the possibilities of language, I personally have always been interested in words used to address the dead. As though you could really make sentences that can break through into the radioether of death.”

PS. Bazhan. Never (again!)
Mykola Bazhan's propaganda poem (1942) is still broadcast on Ukrainian Radio every year on May 9th. On the occasion of Putin's proclamation of the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, the voice of the Soviet poet now sounds like a weapon aimed in the other direction. The rapper Hryts Semenchuk (BRAT) has added some anti-pathos by inviting Russian invaders to the infernal festival of the recently deceased Russian singer Iosif Kobzon, infamous performer of the anthem of the USSR and of Novorossia.

The tracks of the Fokstroty album include recordings of the voices of Ukrainian poets which you can also hear in the program "Poetry on Radio Culture", a partner of this project. The songs also include the sounds of typewriters and other items belonging to the residents of the Slovo House from the funds of the Kharkiv Literary Museum. We are grateful to Radio Culture and the Slovo Kharkiv Literary Residence for their cooperation on the project.