On Sunday night, the annual Grammy awards aired on network television. The ceremony was punctured by real life, as a gritty videotaped message was broadcast to attendees at the glitzy ceremony from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. His words were directed to artists and musicians in the music industry who continued to write and compose in the safe spaces where they live out their lives.
But Zelensky’s message contained neither scolding for the buoyant attitude among the attendees nor envy at the opulence in the room—both in stark contrast to the current plight of the Ukrainian people. Rather, he spoke words of encouragement to those gathered to celebrate excellence in their industry and remind them of the vital importance of their work.
Two weeks ago, in this space, I spoke of the enduring power of music to inspire hope, even in the darkest hours. For the first time in five years of writing these weekly posts, I devote the entire space to the thoughts of another—the President of Ukraine—who made similar points in his address to the Grammys, but in a way so much more compelling than I could ever hope to achieve:
“The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people. Our children draw swooping rockets, not shooting stars. Over 400 children have been injured and 153 children died. And we’ll never see them drawing. Our parents are happy to wake up in the morning in bomb shelters. But alive. Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence.
“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom to live, to love, to sound on our land. We are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence.
“Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV. Support us in any way you can. Any — but not silence. And then peace will come. To all our cities the war is destroying — Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Volnovakha, Mariupol and others — they are legends already. But I have a dream of them living and free. Free like you on the Grammy stage.”