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Katya Rohova, leader of INAIA

“I’m a Kyiv girl to the bone. My family is originally from Kyiv. I represent the third generation of native residents. My grandma, Iryna Pap, was the first female photo-documentalist in the USSR. I’m very proud of her. Back then, there were not many women in this field — to me, she’s an example of optimism and power. For many years grandma worked as a photo reporter for the Izvestia newspaper in Ukraine. She photographed Khrushchev and Castro, shot aerial photos of Kyiv from a helicopter. The Kyiv of the 60s and 70s was preserved in her pictures. Thanks to her students and my sister, grandma’s art is getting the attention it deserves. My sister manages the Facebook page, where she posts photos from grandma’s archive. If grandma were still alive, she’d be using all the gadgets: she was an explorer.

I’m a musician, now working on my solo project called INAIA.

When I was little, my mom brought me to the Shchedryk choir, where I was the second alto. We had a great repertoire, and I owe a lot to the choir as a musician.

I loved being the bass root note because it holds the choir together. It’s a foundation that creates a harmonic structure. When five, seven, or nine voices collide into a complex chord, that rich blend of sounds gives you goosebumps. It’s very unfortunate they closed the children’s choir. It was located near Shevchenko Park.

I was born not far from the Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas and lived there till I was five years old. Then my family had to move to Industrialna street and live in a one-room apartment with a dog. Those were turbulent times. Someone broke our window once. That’s just Shuliavka being Shuliavka. In addition, we had a communicating courtyard, and I wasn’t allowed to walk outside by myself. I went to school on Yar Val, so I had to take a metro or two trams to get there, and my dad always picked me up from school.

When I was 14, we moved closer to Honchara street, where I was free to walk around on my own while listening to music on my cassette player. There was a huge deficit, and I had difficulty finding cassettes of my favorite music. My mom and I used to go to the spot near the Central Post Office, where they sold pirate mixtapes, and I would patiently search through them to find my favorite artists. They used to put an “А” near those spots.

There was a basement music shop on Zankovetska street called Perekhrestia that sold the first merch of various bands. You could pick an album, and they’d make a tape for you.

I put up a poster looking for musicians in Perekhrestia. It was a legendary place.

My most magical concert was in Kyiv, with the band Indie-Ya back in 2010. That summer, we performed at the Golden Gate premises (Golden Gate is my favorite metro station). That historic, time-honored setting felt like a time capsule or a cave with extraordinary energy. Everything turned out beautifully: the place, the audience, the energy, and the freedom.

A large part of my partying youth flew by in Kyivska Rus cinema at drum and bass parties. When getting home late, with no trams running, I’d buy a glass bottle of lemonade at the kiosk to protect myself if anything happened. So I’d walk around with the bottle in my hand. After school, I often walked along Bohdan Khmelnytskyi street or rode the metro. And I still love Kyiv Metro. It’s very clean compared to Paris, for example. You feel like you’re in a museum.

Kyiv is very creative these days — it has all the right conditions. This creativity comes from challenges, both external and internal.

When you get too comfortable, you don’t have anything to wonder about or write songs about: broken road - broken hopes. Kyiv is fertile soil for creative growth. My sister lived in the United States for ten years, but she returned to Ukraine during the Orange Revolution. She wanted to be a part of the city’s development. I had many opportunities to move abroad, but I stayed here because no place would feel more like home to me than Kyiv.

In our music video for Hypocrisy, the director and I filmed Kyiv at night. There’s a projected image of me singing on city lights, on the bridge at Nyvky, near Zhytniy Market, and so on. That’s my Kyiv — I love its people and its imperfections. Indeed, the people are the city. Obviously, there are issues with architectural ensembles, but those imperfections are what make Kyiv so charming. Perfect is boring. Now the town is associated for me with youth. It gets younger. The number of beautiful and young people here has definitely increased since my childhood”.

Katya, musician, singer, leader of INAIA


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