Punk rock teacher releases benefit album for Ukraine

By Stephen Bell

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03/31/2022 (Neumann University) – Aston, PA – Janis Chakars, a communications professor at Neumann University who played in punk rock bands for 30 years, is doing what he does best to raise money for Ukraine. On March 23, he released Band Together, a compilation of songs from nine American and seven Ukrainian bands in support of the war-torn country. As a member of Citizens Arrest, a band that toured Eastern Europe, Chakars used his music industry connections and research skills to collect the songs a few weeks after the invasion of Israel. Ukraine by Russia. Although other musicians were eager to donate their art, Chakars was shaken by some of the emails he received. A member of the Kat group, with two of its players trapped in Kharkiv, wrote: “This is the song I want you to use. I’ll try to send you the lyrics, but I’m joining the army. Two members of Death Pill, a group of three women, fled to Poland. A member of another band told Chakars to select one of their songs for the album because none of the band members had access to a working computer. “It was important to me that Ukrainian bands were included because I think their voice needs to be heard at this time,” Chakars said. “And Americans need to stand in solidarity with them.” He admits: “Emotionally, I am devastated by this war and I worry all the time for these people. American contributions to the album include songs by punk icon Ted Leo, Erin Incoherent and bands Unsane, Citizens Arrest and Under Attack. The requested donation for the compilation, available on Band Camp at bandtogether.bandcamp.com/releases, is $10. According to Chakars, most people who buy the collection give more than the asking price. Proceeds go to Razom (a Ukrainian word meaning “together”), a 501c3 Ukrainian-American who has already delivered tons of medical supplies to Ukrainians. According to Chakars, “They have a fleet of drones to spot clear routes to Ukraine for their trucks.” By March 31, sales of the album had brought in $2,000. The album cover was designed by Chakars’ teenage son, based on a photo Chakars took in 2019 during his visit to Latvia and Ukraine. “There was then a war in the east (in Donbos),” he explains, “but life in kyiv was normal. Now all those people I saw walking through the main square are hiding in a basement, fleeing to another country or fighting with Ukrainian forces. On March 29, Chakars hosted a show on 98.5 WNUW, the university’s radio station, during which he played tracks from the album and explained why support for Ukraine is essential. “Solidarity with the oppressed is a fundamental principle of Catholic social teaching,” he says. “Ukrainians are being attacked and deprived of life, limbs and livelihoods. The Franciscan tradition calls us to walk with suffering, and while we may not be able to do this literally in Ukraine, we can try to do so in other ways. Neumann University is a private Catholic college in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with undergraduate majors in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Nursing, and Health Sciences.

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Steve Bellbells@neumann.edu

Diana J. Carleton