Music

Natisa Gogol “Aesthetics”

The new single and video from Ukrainian refugee and pop singer/songwriter Natisa Gogol. Entitled “Aesthetics”, the disco-infused dance pop anthem is a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, especially those in Russian occupation who are further discriminated against. Natisa confides, the song “is a tale of love that is more powerful than life itself, overcoming injustice, prejudice, and any obstacles it may encounter.”

The futuristic video is a dedication to the LGBTQ+ community, portraying a love affair between two women that transcends space and time. “Aesthetics” further highlights many people’s concerns that if Russia occupies Ukraine, the LGBTQ+ population will have their current rights taken away. Natisa’s music delivers a powerful message about holding onto strength and hope, even in the most disastrous and dark of times, as she herself was forced to flee her home in Ukraine to begin a new life. 

The first thing you’ll think when you hear Natisa’s voice is how easy she makes it all sound. Effortlessly beguiling, and as delicately nuanced as one would expect from an artist who sounds like a modern-day Barbra Streisand, she’s also one of those artists who seem to treat their voices as instruments in themselves.

Born in 1988, in the city of Dnipro in Ukraine, Natisa had such a nurturing relationship with her mother and father, that a move from child prodigy to fully- formed singer-songwriter was executed with the ease of an acrobat. Indeed, her parents encouraged Natisa’s musical activities to such an extent that, from birth, they saw a singer in her. Correspondingly, at the age of five, she stood on a chair and gave singing recitals to all her relatives. Less than a year after that, she was sent to music school for piano lessons. Naturally, by the time she turned sixteen, Natisa found herself enrolled 500km up the road, at the Kyiv Municipal Academy of Performing and Circus Arts – highlights of the program include singing and dancing, as well as pantomime, illusion and manipulation! – and just four years later, in 2008, Natisa became a soloist for the state academic orchestra, an institution that saw her collaborate with DJ Shiller, as well as 1970s disco/funk vocal supergroup, Boney M. For the record, you should be aware that, soon after their success in the West in the 1970s, Boney M became something of a musical phenomenon in Eastern Europe, and the Afro-German-Caribbean outfit have remained something of a musical phenomenon in Ukraine ever since. And, at this point in proceedings, it’s perhaps also pertinent to point out that in March this year, Boney M released a pro -Ukraine version of Rasputin – and, herein, lies the crux of our tale.

At 4.45 am on February 24th, 2022, Natisa woke up to the sound of rockets and explosions. Her first thought was that she couldn’t believe that the war had begun. Then she thought of her son, Platon, aged seven, who was always at her side, and she knew they had to flee. Later that day, her friend called her, and they made a plan: Natisa and Platon would collect the barest of essentials, and escape to the border. But most of the roads around Kyiv had already collapsed, and those that were still functional were impossibly rammed with traffic, a thronging horde of panicking people.

They decided to wait one more day and night. “I don’t know how we survived that night,” says Natisa now. “In the morning, my friend came to pick us up, but, as we drove away from Antonov Airport, we heard shots and explosions.” By now, their plan had been formulated: Natisa’s friend had a brother who lived in the Czech Republic, and they would head for the Polish border, and then on to Prague. Except they were not out of the woods yet.

“When we arrived at the exit to the Zhytomyr highway, which leads towards the Polish border, two cars were already waiting for us,” says Natisa. “There were four women and four children ready to leave in these two cars but the shots became louder and closer, so we had to change our route. We followed our friend’s car through the traffic for 20km before he had to go back to Kyiv to help defend the city. As we watched him drive away, we could see Ukrainian tanks and soldiers arriving. We drove – and lived in – that car for five days until we felt safe.”

Forced to flee her native home, her friends, and the home-grown music career that had been the defining force in her life since childhood, Natisa realised that she would have to strike back. Teaming up with US-born, Prague-based songwriter, musician and producer, Gregory Darling – Darling’s piano-pop solo output has been compared to Elton John, Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello by the Sunday Times, and, ‘Lucky’, his latest co-write with Julian Lennon and Gregg Alexander (New Radicals) has been a Top 40 mainstay on Billboard Triple A for the last two months.

Natisa cites jazz as an influence, although her musical heroes include artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, and Mariah Carey. You can see the influence of some of these artists on Natisa’a vocal technique, her fiercely evocative timbre – as dreamy and sophisticated as it gets – proving to be the perfect accompaniment to a melancholic pop landscape that’s seemingly ever-present, yet just out of reach. And at the heart of that landscape is love. This is her story. These are her songs.

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