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Pink Floyd write song for Ukraine

April 8, 2022

The iconic British band reunited to record "Hey, Hey, Rise-Up!" in reaction to the war. The new single samples a Ukrainian musician now on the front line.

Cover of Pink Floyd song Hey Hey Rise Up with sunflower's center depicting an eye.
The artwork for the new single refers to a symbol of Ukrainian resistance, the sunflowerImage: Pink Floyd/PA Media/dpa/picture alliance

Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, one of the Ukraine's biggest bands, BoomBox, was on tour in the US. When news broke of the invasion, band frontman Andriy Khlyvnyuk abandoned the tour to return to Ukraine and help defend his country.  

In a since viral Instagram clip dated February 28, Khlyvnyuk was seen dressed in military fatigues with a rifle slung over his shoulder, singing a patriotic Ukrainian protest song titled "Oh, The Red Viburnum in The Meadow" in Sofiyskaya Square in Kyiv. It was originally written in 1914 to honor the Sich Riflemen, a Ukrainian military unit that fought in World War I.

Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour — who had previously performed live with BoomBox in 2015 at a London benefit gig for the Belarus Free Theatre — was so moved by the clip, that he was inspired to compose "Hey, Hey, Rise-Up!"

In a press release announcing the band's first track in 28 years, Gilmour said: "It was a powerful moment that made me want to put it to music."

The title of the Pink Floyd song, which samples Khlyvnyuk's singing, is taken from the Ukrainian folk song's last line, which translates to "Hey, hey, rise up and rejoice."

All proceeds from the track will go to Ukraine Humanitarian Relief.

'One day we'll play it together'

Gilmour told The Guardian how he was inspired by Khlyvnyuk's viral video to hastily convene a recording session with other Pink Floyd band members, drummer Nick Mason, bassist Guy Pratt and keyboardist Nitin Sawhney. (Estranged original bassist Roger Waters isn't part of this project). 

Meanwhile, Gilmour had also managed to track down and establish contact with Khlyvnyuk. During one of their video chats, the Ukrainian singer was recovering from a schrapnel injury in hospital.

In his interview with The Guardian, the British rock star also recalls his latest conversation with Khlyvnyuk: "He said he had the most hellish day you could imagine, going out and picking up bodies of Ukrainians, Ukrainian children, helping with the clearing up. You know, our little problems become so pathetic and tiny in the context of what you see him doing."

Gilmour added that he had sent sent Khlyvnyuk the song and shared the latter's response: "Thank you, it's fabulous. One day we'll play it together and have a good stout afterwards, on me."

The symbolism of sunflowers

The artwork for the track features a painting of a sunflower by Cuban artist Yosan Leon. The sunflower is Ukraine's national flower, and is now becoming a symbol of resistance against the Russian invasion.

The sunflower motif for the song was inspired by another viral video of a Ukrainian woman confronting two armed Russian soldiers.

She is seen in it telling the soldiers, "Take these seeds and put them in your pockets. That way sunflowers will grow when you all rest here."

"Hey, Hey, Rise-Up!" is the first original music from Pink Floyd since 1994's "The Division Bell."

Gilmour, who has a Ukrainian daughter-in-law and grandchildren, had tweeted his opposition to the war soon after Russia's invasion, saying: "Putin must go."

The band has also pulled their music from Russian and Belarusian streaming sites in protest against the invasion.

The release of "Hey, Hey, Rise-Up!" also coincides with the "Stand Up for Ukraine" social media rally and pledging event that will take place on April 8 and 9 respectively that aim to raise billions in humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees and for other forcibly displaced people worldwide. 


Brenda Haas | Porträt
Brenda Haas Writer and editor for DW Culture