A smiling, female, plus-size Ukrainian rapper grooves around the stage of a big European festival. She’s performing a song in Ukrainian. The crowd sways and jumps as the artist’s black and purple braids swirl around her. Now she’s in bumper cars, signing chests, on an airplane, and in a bathtub.
No, this isn’t a pipe dream. It’s the video for the track “Tomorrow” by Ukrainian rapper Alyona Alyona, who will make her Iceland Airwaves debut this year.
“When I was 12 years old, I heard rap for the first time,” Alyona Savranenko says. She’s on video-chat, standing in an alleyway in Kiev, relaxing during a short break from a shoot. “I don’t know how to explain why I liked it, maybe because people can speak about so many things in one song. It has some vibe.”
She shrugs and bursts into loud, boisterous laughter, shaking the phone. Though we’ve only been talking for a few minutes, I already low-key love her. Smiley, positive, infectiously enthusiastic, Alyona’s the type of person you just want to be friends with. She talks about everything with passion, so much so that I can’t help but think that if she ever wants to give up music, motivational speaking might be a good fit.
Women can rap!
Alyona took up rapping in 2009 and put out her first single that same year. “It was in Ukrainian and about women kicking stereotypes,” Alyona explains. “I talked about how all the boys would say that women can’t rap, but I’m a woman who can rap. I said that women can rap and they can rap good.” She grins, her cockiness shining through. But hey—she came into a boys club and ended up becoming the most famous rapper in the country. She’s earned that right.
From there, Alyona started grinding, making music and occasionally playing live. It took a while, but last year, her vibe started to catch on. Her lyrics, empowering bad-bitch anthems, resonated with people, while her flow, beats, and general aura caught the attention of those who didn’t understand a lick of Ukrainian. After having a few viral hits, she started touring the festival circuit of Europe. 2019 saw her release her anticipated album ‘PUSHKA’ and pick up the ANCHOR award from the Reeperbahn Festival International Music Awards. Now, she’ll take on Iceland.
Finding your power
“My songs are about people who don’t believe in themselves, but have to believe in themselves,” Alyona says, turning uncharacteristically serious for a moment. “Girls with different faces, bodies, piercings, tattoos. The new generation. I talk about my roots, my native village and my childhood.” She smiles. “I talk about myself, who I am, why I am rapping, why I am a fat girl and what I think about myself.”
Once again, the laughter. I don’t exactly know what she’s laughing at but I can’t help but join in.
“All those people have something special inside them, in their soul, and that is their power. They don’t have to listen to or look to other people, because other people might say bad things. They don’t like your body or your face, but that’s ok,” she says. “You don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to look like them.”
Velkomin til Íslands!
After her Airwaves show, Alyona plans to spend 5 days in Iceland. Her excitement about this is adorably palpable. “Iceland is so beautiful!“ she yells. “I don’t mind that we will see it in November, it’s ok!” A big grin takes hold of her face. “Iceland is cool in every season.”
Alyona Alyona will play at Iceland Airwaves on Friday at 22:00 at the Hard Rock Café.
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Posted October 31, 2019