Ukraine’s contender for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, the wildly popular, over-the-top annual European event that is a swirl of flamboyance and nationalism, is set to give its first international performance Thursday evening in the lead-up to the main event in May.
The six members of the band Kalush Orchestra, a group that mixes rap and traditional Ukrainian music, were given special permission to leave the country despite a martial law that bars men of military age from departing, according to the country’s public broadcaster.
“We want to show the world community Ukrainian music, our spirit and how unbreakable we are. We really need support in this difficult time,” the band said, according to the broadcaster Suspline, which runs the contest to pick Ukraine’s representative.
Even though contest rules expressly bar political speech, gestures or lyrics, Russia’s war in Ukraine is very much becoming a factor in the shindig that last year was viewed by 183 million people worldwide. In February, a day after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union barred Russia from this year’s competition, saying it would sully an event designed to promote European unity and cultural exchange.