While hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters are squaring off against riot police in cities across the country on the week of the 10th anniversary of the Orange Revolution, Almonte musician Nathan Sloniowski has released his song“Orange Ribbon” on YouTube today. Ukrainian citizens are protesting against the government’s move to delay an association deal with the EU under pressure from Russia.
“I am very inspired to see the spirit of the Orange Revolution rise among the Ukrainian people once again,” said Sloniowski. “As my contribution to the current struggle for social justice and the rule of law, I have posted the most recent mix of “Orange Ribbon” to YouTube.
Sloniowski’s newly released song is dedicated to the courage of Nataliya Dmytruk and written for the people of Ukraine. In a shaky democracy where peaceful acts of democratic defiance are rewarded with threats, imprisonment, or worse, this brave single mother decided to use her position as a sign language interpreter on state-run channel UT1 to lay bare corrupt national election results in 2004.
With an orange ribbon on her wrist, she deviated from the official script followed by the national news anchor, and signed to her deaf viewers, silently saying, “I am addressing everybody who is deaf in Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies … And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you.” Her solo rebellion sparked a stop-work meeting by 250 of her newsroom colleagues who made a broader stand for truth.
Within days UT1 had changed to a balanced reporting style. Following her action, many other news reporters in the broadcast media run or controlled by the state or the oligarchs who supported Yanukovych refused to participate in the production of the doctored news reports. In 2005, Nataliya Dmytruk, together with another Ukrainian woman, Olena Prytula, were given the annual International John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award.
Born in Canada with a Ukrainian ancestry, Sloniowski wrote “Orange Ribbon” in Almonte shortly after the Orange Revolution but didn’t record the song until his first-ever trip to Ukraine in 2011. In Lviv, he produced an initial recording with members of the Ukrainian rock band Sample Rate. Additional tracking, mixing and production work in 2012 and 2013 in Pittsburgh, PA, resulted in the Nov. 25th version of of the song that is on YouTube accompanied by a collage of photos from the cross-continent mixing and recording sessions.
While he is also a member of local bands like The Ragged Flowers and Illegal Smile, as a solo songwriter, Sloniowski isn’t a stranger to songs of political justice. The Ottawa Citizen’s Patrick Langston praised the singer-songwriter’s debut CD “No Wicked for the Rest” as “a smart blend of folk, bluegrass and country that segues nicely from the opening tracks about power and greed to more intimate tunes about love and its struggle to survive in a cock-eyed world.”
On that CD, the song, “Who Rules the World”, a Country and Western satirical send-up of the U.S. politics that led to the quagmire of the Iraq War, was featured on the CBC Ottawa evening news on the eve of President George Bush’s second run at the U.S. presidency. It also earned a feature in the Ottawa Citizen, has been archived in The Centre for Political Song at Glasgow Caledonian University, and enjoyed airplay on Internet radio stations around the world.