The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Local professor creates collaborative Ukraine benefit album

The band’s benefit album cover. PHOTO COURTESY OF MELISSA CHAKARS

Inspired and troubled by the conflict in Ukraine, Janis Chakars, Ph.D. professor of digital media and communications at Neumann University, teamed up with punk rock artists from Philadelphia and Ukraine to create an album raising money for Ukraine. 

Chakars researches international communication and media history, and he is currently writing about Russia’s information war in the Baltic states. Tying together these topics in the form of compiling a benefit album, “Band Together” consists of a total of 16 songs, six of which are from Ukrainian artists. 

“I tell people that it’s all made by punks, but it’s not all punk music,” Chakars said. “I can’t believe that it came together so beautifully. If you listen to it straight through, it somehow makes sense.”

Chakars, who is married to Melissa Chakars, Ph.D., associate professor of history at St. Joe’s, is part of two punk rock bands: Citizens Arrest, which has been around since the late 80s, and Grey C.E.L.L., which he founded a few years ago.

Chakars said he remembers visiting Latvia when studying abroad in college, during Latvia’s independence movement. This led him to team up with Derik Moore, drummer for Grey C.E.L.L, to create the compilation.

“I witnessed [Latvia] overcome Soviet occupation, but I also got to see the last days of that occupation and I learned a lot about what a Russian occupation does to a country,” Chakars said. “It’s important to me to find ways to keep this effort raising money because the war is not going to end tomorrow. Even if it did, this country has been destroyed and it’s gonna be a big job to rebuild it.”

The album is being sold through the site Bandcamp. All proceeds, after Bandcamp and PayPal fees, will go to the non-profit organization Razom, which means “together” in Ukrainian. The organization, founded in 2014, is focused on ‘building a more prosperous nation’ and supporting the people of Ukraine in any way possible.

“They’re an organization that a lot of young people are involved with,” Moore said. “The spirit they have, the way they’re organized, and the fact that they came together so quickly and busted their asses and continue to do so, [they just have] that spirit.” 

On the first Friday of every month, Bandcamp waives its fees. That is the best time to buy the album, Moore said. 

One song on the album, titled “Atlantis,” was created by the Ukrainian band, Кат. Kyrylo Brenner, lyricist and guitarist for the band, said their song was inspired by the films “Enthusiasm: The Symphony of Donbas” and “Atlantis.” 

The band tried to connect the dots, Kyrylo said, between the utopian society portrayed in “Enthusiasm” and the suffering of the people in the post-apocalyptic Donbas region in “Atlantis.”

“Some lines in this song definitely sound prophetical to me because the lyrics were written before this full-scale war,” Kyrylo added. “I think something was in the air and we picked it up.”

Erin Cookman, who goes by Erin Incoherent on stage and has a single on the album titled “Songs for the Revolution,” said this kind of benefit album is indicative of the punk rock scene. Chakars and Cookman met a few years ago during a Philadelphia fundraising event, It’s Raining Narcan, sponsored by Operation in My Backyard, a substance use disorder reduction organization based in Philadelphia.

“We take care of our own, and we build our own community,” Cookman said. 

Kyrylo said having the support of the punk rock community means a lot to him.

“We feel that we are not alone because sometimes you can feel that,” Kyrylo said. “When a country like Russia attacks you, it’s very, very hard to defend. At least we see this support from regular guys, and I really appreciate that.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *