The Band Dispatch Sings In Russian To Aid Ukraine Against The Invasion

DISPATCH is a rock band with a story in many ways mirroring the American story. In their essence, there is liberalism. There is inventiveness. There’s poetry, and there’s a dream. There’s America. In their past, there are frat parties, and there’s heartbreaks. They’ve won awards, recognition, and a fanbase with mobility and wealth. They’re well employed.

DISPATCH didn’t find the smoothest path through the public eye. The Denver Post headlined a quote from the group calling them, “the biggest band nobody’s heard of.” NPR’s headline was ruder: “DISPATCH’s Most Significant Move? Breaking Up.”

DISPATCH used to be three band members. Depression made member Pete Francis amicably exit the band. The story of America, especially these days, is plagued by mental illness and the lead hearts it leaves us holding.

America, in the noble protection of free speech, is used to being confronted with its faults. America incarcerates more of its citizens per capita than any other country in the world. There’s over 111 guns for every person in the nation. And our schooling is a joke that doesn’t land.

But we have music. We have a musical tradition that is as alive as any of the arts could hope to be. And Americans engage in more charitable giving than any other nationality in the world.

This story isn’t the story of a traditional sort of giving or a traditional sort of music. It’s the story of some hard work, some translation, some rock and roll, mentorship, and the compassionate, rage filled grief stringing it all together.

Lead singer Chad watched from a dive bar on the road when the news struck. Russian troops were on the warpath to Bilohorivka on 3 caddy-corner, beer-stained screens. The Eastern part of Ukraine was on an inexcusable and totally traditional human sort of fire. He saw the shells the bombs left of homes and the sullen faces of survivors.

He thought of some lines from his song “The General.” It goes, “I have seen the others, and I have discovered that this fight is not worth fighting. And I’ve seen their mothers, and I will no other to follow me where I’m going.”

Brad, the drummer, saw the news on his phone. He read the Kremlin was funneling Ukrainian orphans into Russian families. Commentators said it was further evidence of war crimes and of genocide. He thought of some lines from his song “The General.” It goes, “you are young men. You must be living.”

Language is accessibility. A friend of the band posted on Facebook, “my friends are in the band DISPATCH. Their most famous song is an anti-war poem called ‘The General.’ They’re hoping to help with the war effort in any way they can and need some help translating their work into Russian to potentially be heard by the people of Russia and Ukraine.”

The first person who reached out didn’t work out. He cancelled for unspecified reasons. The second person didn’t seem to know any Russian.

The third person answered the phone with, “I will do this. I am the best, so you might as well do it with me.”

She was an older Ukrainian woman with straight brown bangs and wiry strong pale arms. The bridge of her nose held the indents from her reading glasses. She FaceTimed from the bathroom in the makeshift operating headquarters of the Leleka Foundation, a hostel in central Mariupol.

Leleka provides tourniquets and other first aid to Ukrainian soldiers. $18 for a tourniquet is the difference between life and bleeding outs in Central-Eastern Eurasia in 2022. Who expected that?

“We wull practice every night. We wull find a time,” said Olga. She had a slow pace to her speech which was thick with the Russian u. Her words were pulled together one at a time, sometimes at the stitch of the syllable.

Olga is Russian and Ukrainian. Her heritage represents the unity of the land. Her blood stands as an example of the kinship shared by the two nations. She usually lives in New York, New York, which, incidentally, represents kinship and unity of mankind too.

Chad’s crash course lasted ten days on WhatsApp and Facetime. “Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth,” Olga said when Chad pronounced the Russian y. Olga was six or seven hours ahead of Chad at any given day working to get tourniquets to the fighting, but she insisted on finding time to practice.

She would correct him on every word of every line until it was consistent and perfect.

They spoke for ten days before Chad was set with studio time to record the song. On the tenth day, Chad told Olga it was their last practice, the studio session was the next day.

“We are not ready,” Olga said. “I zought we had two months to do zis.”

“Oh no. I’m sorry. I got to do it tomorrow. I’m sorry if I didn’t communicate that,” said Chad worrying.

“Okay, zit down,” Olga said. “Let’s go over ze pronunciation again.”

At the end she told him, “you are very talented, but you have made some mistakes.” Chad just laughed. It was all he could do with the studio booked.

Brad sat in his home studio to engineer the song. It was the first song he ever engineered. A chill rose through his body through the process, and he felt a pride at attempting to use art to win the spirits of the Russian people. I have no idea where this will go, he thought, but I have hope.

His mind went to his kids and his heart felt like thick melted golden sunshine, a folding aura borealis aura the vague shape and feeling of a sunflower.

Spotify pulled out of Russia over the war. The Russian version of their song “The General” is listened to through Apple Music, YouTube, and Signal, the encrypted messaging service used by drug dealers, dissidents, and paranoids in America. People share protest music on Signal in the tight Russian surveillance state.

The song’s total reach, statistically, is unknown and left up to legend. DISPTACH’s next tour, a co-headlining with O.A.R., begins on July 15 and will raise money for Ending Mass Incarceration.

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