Ukraine’s President tells Grammy Awards: ‘Our musicians wear body armour instead of tuxedos’

4 April 2022, 11:39 | Updated: 4 April 2022, 12:17

Volodymyr Zelensky sends appeal to Grammys over war in Ukraine

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stunned the Grammy Awards on Sunday night with a surprise message in which he told the audience to “fill the silence with music”.

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At the 64th Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared in a surprise cameo to rally support for Ukraine, urging the audience to “support us in any way you can” but “not silence”.

During the pre-recorded video message, which Zelensky presented from a bunker in Kyiv, the President compared Russia’s invasion to a deadly silence threatening to extinguish the dreams and lives of the Ukrainian people – including children.

“On our land, we are fighting Russia which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence,” Zelensky said.

“Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV. Support us, in any way you can. Any – but not silence. And then peace will come.”

Read more: Ballet dancers from Kyiv National Opera join military to fight for Ukraine

Ukrainian President delivers powerful speech at Grammy Awards
Ukrainian President delivers powerful speech at Grammy Awards. Picture: Getty

After Zelensky’s speech, singer-songwriter John Legend sang ‘Free’, a song inspired by African American spirituals and hymns, accompanied by Ukrainian singer Mika Newton, musician Siuzanna Iglidan and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, as images from the war were shown on screens behind them.

Continuing his speech, Zelensky said: “The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people.

“Our musicians wear body armors instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound.”

John Legend sings a prayer with Ukrainian singer Mika Newton
John Legend sings a prayer with Ukrainian singer Mika Newton. Picture: Getty

Since Ukraine was first invaded in February, musicians and artists have been making the transformation from creatives to soldiers, in their country’s time of need – from singers at the Odesa Opera House filling sandbags and learning to assemble rifles, to ballet dancers at the Kyiv National Opera joining the military in response to Zelensky’s call for “everyone who wants and has the capacity” to defend Ukraine.

At Sunday’s ceremony, Zelensky ended his speech by saying he hoped the Ukrainian people could soon “be free like the people on the Grammy stage”.

His cameo received a standing ovation from the audience at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena. Before the ceremony, the Recording Academy highlighted a social media campaign called ‘Stand Up For Ukraine’ to raise funds during the humanitarian crisis.