Brett Hill didn’t believe Russia would engage in its now raging attack on Ukraine. However, with the invasion looming, the Dayton-based artist known as Brother Hill immediately jumped into action and began organizing a number of fundraising concerts for the cause.
The next local Benefit for Ukraine is at Sueño in Dayton on Sunday, April 24. The concert features performances by Brother Hill, Benya Stewart and Belarusian musician Siarzhuk Douhushau.
Hill was spurred to action when he recognized his personal connection to Ukraine put him in unique position to facilitate change locally. He has not only made several trips to the country but is also a member of Slavalachia, an offshoot of the international Slavic-Appalachian Folk Alliance that also features Stewart, Douhushau and four Ukrainian members.
“I can’t deny how much I feel responsible to do this for my community because so few people here have this connection to Ukraine,” Hill said. “Four days before the invasion is when I actually realized it was going to happen. I was in total denial before that. I really couldn’t believe the gall it would take to do this. Once I realized the invasion was going to happen, I knew I had to step up. At that point, I recognized this is what I’ve been prepping for. I adore Ukraine and its people. I adore everything I’ve interacted with and engaged with in the culture and that happened organically.”
Sunday’s benefit, along with others in Cleveland and Athens, are the second round of concerts for the war-torn country. In March, Hill organized fundraising shows in Dayton, Athens and Columbus.
“We’re aiming for $25,000,” he said. “We’re going to buy individual first aid kits. Those are really, really needed in Ukraine right now. They’re pretty much impossible to access in Ukraine and also very difficult across Europe, not to mention very expensive. Our plan is for Benya and I to deliver them in person in about a month. We’ll be over in Warsaw and, if possible, we’ll see our Ukrainian counterparts.”
Hill is quick to credit the contributions of Stewart, his bandmate in Hill Spirits and Slavalachia.
“Benya, who went to Ukraine with me both times, has been a big help with these shows,” he said. “He’s been helping me more because our aspirations are pretty lofty for what we’re going to do with this money. I believe it’s possible but it’s taking a hell of a lot of effort.”
In the midst of the war in Ukraine and the benefit shows, Hill and Stewart continue to explore their distinctive blend of Appalachian and Eastern European folk music. This month, Slavalachia released its self-titled debut. While the material was recorded in Ukraine before Russia’s invasion, the album is filled with themes of war and struggle.
“One of the most interesting circumstantial things about this album is we didn’t set out to record a war album or an album with all these themes surrounding war,” Hill said. “It really wasn’t intentional but most of these songs on the Slavalachia album are traditional tunes. We just put our own group spin on these international folk songs. Releasing this album is the most we can do right now as a full collective while four of our members are in a country at war. All four of the Ukrainian members of Slavalachia are actively volunteering in some way or the other. They’re each doing their part in the resistance.”
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at email@example.com.
Credit: Don Thrasher
Credit: Don Thrasher
HOW TO GO
What: Benefit for Ukraine with Brother Hill, Benya Stewart and Siarzhuk Douhushau
Where: Sueño, 607 E. Third St., Dayton
When: 6 p.m. Sunday, April 24
More info: 937-453-0008 or www.suenodyt.com
Artist info: facebook.com/slavalachiaproject
About the Author