Parties rarely start with a DJ arriving in his military uniform, but this is the reality for Ukraine's electronic music scene as it forges on through the war.

Before the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, was fast becoming a top European nightlife destination. Now, its young creatives are beginning to rebuild a cultural fabric devastated by the conflict.

The uniformed DJ is Artur Bhangu, a 25-year old opthalmology student who joined Kyiv's territorial defence force when the war started.

He told Reuters he was glad to be playing music in order to raise money for Ukraine's armed forces; part of the event's takings will be donated to them.

"As soon as the situation in Kyiv became calmer, we immediately started thinking how to help our friends using music... to collect donations and help those at the front," Bhangu said before donning civilian clothes for his set.

A vibrant crowd gathered for the Saturday afternoon event in the sunny courtyard of a disused factory, one of many vast, dilapidated Soviet-era industrial spaces repurposed by artists and musicians in Kyiv's Podil district.

Matters are complicated by Kyiv's wartime 11 p.m. curfew, but the event's organiser and headliner, 34-year-old Garik Pledov, said the forced shift to daylight raving has its upsides.

"I even like them more when they are done in the day, because parties have become more about music, culture, and conversation than when they were held at night," he told Reuters.


In Kyiv, hundreds of miles from the front lines, reminders of the war are still never far away.

"If there is an (air raid) siren, we turn the music off, and go to the nearest shelter," Pledov said.

He organised his first post-invasion event, an art exhibition, in May, but held off from hosting "proper parties" until mid-June.

"At that point it was clear, at least to me, that people need this, that they want to take their mind off (the war) when they can," he said.

The assembled crowd of about 100 people, many of them clad in flourescent tops or leather, bounced vivaciously around the dance floor in the early evening sun, relishing their chance to distract themselves from the war.

"I think that this (event) can give people who went though very tragic experiences a certain feeling of freedom, and a feeling that life actually goes on and will be beautiful," 21-year old student Anastasiia Lukoshyna said.

For others, the relentless pace of electronic music can be therapeutic.

"If I sit at home... my aggression and negativity will have nowhere to go," Oleksandra Pshebitkovska, a 31-year-old IT technician, said.

Apart from the music and dancing, the event offered another mode of catharsis for partygoers: The evening reached a climax when a red barrel bearing painted Russian flags and Kremlin towers was thrown into the crowd and promptly swarmed in a flurry of kicks and baseball bats.


Like all communities in Ukraine, Kyiv's electronic music scene has already felt the devastating human toll of war.

Those attending the event abounded with stories of their friends fighting or doing volunteer work in frontline areas. Some don't come back.

Pledov recalled the surreal experience of DJing at the wake of a friend who was killed by shrapnel while evacuating civilians under fire.

His friend wanted to be remembered with a party rather than a traditional, sombre gathering.

"So you are playing quite upbeat music, but photos of him are all around you. You remember being with him, you see his relatives. This dissonance was the strangest experience of my life," Pledov said.

The promoter expressed hope that Kyiv's burgeoning nightlife reputation won't be permanently destroyed by the war.

"I think that when we win, Kyiv will shoot skyward like a rocket... although I don't know how great that analogy is right now," he observed wryly.