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Ukrainian jazz trio gives masterclass at MacEwan as bandmate fights on the eastern front


Musicians from Ukraine are visiting MacEwan University this week to share their music and raise money and awareness for the war in their country and the friends they have on the front lines.

The jazz group ShockolaD was at MacEwan Thursday to teach a masterclass for students on their new album Kinva, which blends jazz and traditional Ukrainian music.

The journey to Edmonton hasn't been easy for the band, and they've had to make some changes since the invasion last February.

While pianist Anastasia Litvinyuk and her partner and ShockolaD drummer, Igor Hnydn, managed to flee Ukraine with their young daughter when Russia invaded, their bass player stayed behind and was conscripted into the army.

"It wasn't his choice, but he was taken as a man," she said. "Now he's in a very, very dangerous part of this front line. So we are worried about him every day."

"We hope he will be alive and war will stop. We will win the war, and he will play again."

After settling in Poland, Litvinyuk and Hnydn continued to make music and connected with bass player Roman Chraniuk to record Kinva.

Thursday they shared the album with students at the masterclass. In addition to inviting students to learn more about Ukrainian culture and language, Litvinyuk said she hopes the class and ShockolaD's upcoming concert at MacEwan will inspire support for Ukraine.

"At every concert we're trying to remind people about Ukraine and about what happened in Ukraine, and also that Ukraine has [a] very big culture, that we have many musicians, many artists," she said. "[When] we talk about this, people listen and people open their hearts for Ukraine, for us.

"I think it's very important to remind people because you know, people [are] used to this war. It's already a year."


The group's arrival at MacEwan has been long-awaited, said Bill Richards, chair of MacEwan University's department of music.

After seeing ShockolaD perform in Lviv, Ukraine, during a 2019 MacEwan trip to the Lviv National Music Academy, plans were made to bring the band to play at the university.

"We wanted to build this relationship and have them come over and visit," he said, adding the pandemic and then the Russian invasion cancelled all plans until last week when the band, albeit a slightly different band, arrived in the city.

"It's very special, you know, to be able to continue the partnership. We always wanted to have them here as guests, so now we've got this opportunity. It means a lot to us, it means a lot to the Ukrainian diaspora," Richards said.

In Thursday's masterclass, students had the chance to learn techniques and composition, play with the band and get feedback from members.

"I hope they're inspired by how artists can still create under extraordinary circumstances," Richards said. "One of the other bass players that works with ShockolaD now carries a kalashnikov and operates an anti-tank gun on the eastern front. So this stuff's real."

The trio will debut Kinva at 8 p.m. Thursday at the YardBird Suite. Ticket's are available on the venue's website or at the door if not sold out online. 

On Saturday, the band will play at MacEwan's Betty Andew's Recital Hall at a fundraising concert for students and academics affected by the war in Ukraine. Tickets can be purchased on the MacEwan website.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb Top Stories

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