Music duo TVORCHI, consists of Ukrainian producer Andrii Viktorovych Hutsuliak and Nigerian vocalist Jimoh Augustus Kehinde.
They achieved several firsts by winning Ukraine's Eurovision national selection Vidbir back in December last year. They won the first national final of the Eurovision 2023 season, with 'Heart of Steel' being the first song to be publicly chosen for May's Eurovision Song Contest. TVORCHI are also currently ranked first by the bookmakers in terms of likeliness to win Eurovision 2023. With these impressive facts, let's find out more about the act that will represent defending champions Ukraine in Liverpool.
Life before TVORCHI
Andrii, aged 26, grew up in a village in the Ternopil Oblast of Ukraine. His parents worked abroad in the hope of providing a better standard of living for Andrii and his brother. He began making music as a teenager on beat-making software.
In contrast Jimoh, aged 25, originally comes from Nigeria. He grew up in a wealthy, military family, which explains why they had constant security personnel and personal drivers at their service. At school, although he did not take formal music lessons, Jimoh began to sing and write lyrics. He attributes the motive of moving to Ukraine as wanting to gain more independence from his family, and sees the move to Europe as providing him with many opportunities in the music industry. Jimoh absolutely does not regret moving to Ukraine, even after the invasion by Russia, and plans to continue to live in Ukraine for the foreseeable future.
Despite the pair's very different upbringing 6000 kilometres apart, there was one thing their families had in common: both sets of parents did not want their sons to pursue a music career and persuaded them to study pharmaceuticals. But for both Jimoh and Andrii their deep passion for music would overcome these parental obstacles.
The university where Jimoh and Andrii studied was in the city of Ternopil, 420 kilometres to the west of Kyiv, and home to 220,000 people. Although they were studying in the same field at the same university, they actually met through a random street encounter in 2017. Andrii wanted to test his English speaking skills, so he approached Jimoh. After that the two quickly became friends, though they initially did not realise they were both into music.
Then one evening over a late-night dinner of pasta, Andrii began to play to Jimoh music he had created, to which they soon began composing lyrics to. This would turn out to be the making of the band's first single 'Slow' and with it TVORCHI - which means 'creative' in Ukrainian was born.
Success from Humble Beginnings
The band have released four studio albums: 'The Parts' (2018), 'Disco Lights' (2019), '13 Waves' (2020) and 'ROAD' (2021). Getting funding and resources to support their musical projects was initially difficult for TVORCHI. The music video of one of their early singles 'Believe', which was released in 2019, was created on a budget of US$100. However, the video has gone on to notch up 2.6 million videos at the time of publishing this article.
Another facet of TVORCHI's success are the music awards they have received in their homeland. At the YUNA 2021 Music Awards, Ukraine's equivalent of the ARIA Music Awards, the band was nominated for "Best Pop Group", "Best Album" and "Best Electronic Hit." In 2022 at YUNA they won "Best Song in Another Language" and "Best Concert Show."
First Eurovision Attempt
TVORCHI entered Vidbir 2020 with the song 'Bonfire' in the hope of representing Ukraine at Eurovision that year. They first performed in the second semi-final, which they won and it allowed them to qualify for the Vidbir Final. The band were the last competitiors to perform at that year's Final on Feburary 22. TVORCHI ultimately finished 4th at Vidbir 2020, behind champions Go_A and their song 'Solovey'.
Second Time Lucky at Vidbir
Building off of their initial experience, TVORCHI entered Vidbir 2023 with the song 'Heart of Steel'. 299 acts entered Ukraine's Eurovision selection, but only the final ten would perform live from the underground Maidan Nezalezhnosti metro station on 17 December 2022. TVORCHI was chosen as one of the ten, and once again performed last in the Vidbir Final.
According to the bookmakers, the final was expected to be a two-horse race between Krutь's 'Kolyskova' and Jerry Heil's 'When God Shut the Door', with the latter heavily favoured by the Aussievision team as well. However TVORCHI defied expectation by coming in second with the jury and received the most public votes. This was enough for the duo to win Vidbir overall and have the right to represent Ukraine at this year's Eurovision.
TVORCHI however did not manage to avoid post-show drama, that seem to consistently characterise Ukraine's Eurovision selections. Runner-up Krutь made an appeal to UA:PBC (Ukraine's Eurovision broadcaster), arguing that TVORCHI had broken Vidbir rules by doubling the lead vocals during their live performance, and that the duo's label Believe had strong ties to Russia.
The Vidbir organising committee dismissed both accusations. In a statement they conceded that while several finalists had committed a few minor violations during the show, it was not major enough for any of them to be disqualified. The committee as well stated their investigation revealed that Believe is actually a French label that distributes mainly to Europe and Asia. Ultimately TVORCHI were not disqualified and are still able to defend Ukraine's Eurovision crown in Liverpool.
Meaning of 'Heart of Steel'
According to Andrii the song was written in the early months of Ukraine's invasion by Russia, with the duo inspired by the 'fire, strength and steadfastness' of defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. 'Heart of Steel' therefore seeks to channel the emotion of these workers, and encourage everyone who is going through a difficult time to be defiant and draw on their inner strength. This is therefore a song that people across the world can relate to, but also seeks to specifically provide hope and inspiration to the people of Ukraine.
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