Pavel Shilko, aka DJ Pasha, was an eighteen-year-old student studying Spanish translation at Shevchenko University when he started working at the brand new FM radio station, Gala Radio in 1995. His talents as a DJ and his ear for good music meant that he soon stood out, and Gala Radio owner, Joseph Lemire, was soon involving him in many important decisions, and by 1997 Pasha was working as the Programme Director for the station. One very important decision the two of them made together was to create a Ukrainian Top 20 music chart, and ten years ago last week, it was launched. “Both Joseph and myself thought it was ideal and necessary to do a Ukrainian Top 20, and so we began working on a mechanism to rank the music.” The method they came up with was to score artists using 15 music charts from around the world, Ukrainian sales, airplay and more recently online and SMS voting. “Ukrainian music is given more points, because it would be impossible for local artists to compete with global stars such as Beyonce,” Pasha explains.
The chart has helped the careers of many talented Ukrainians, such as Tina Karol, Verka Serduchka, Ani Lorak and of course, Okean Elzy. “It’s been very interesting to watch the Ukrainian music industry develop. Gala radio, especially Pasha’s Top 20, has been instrumental in raising the public’s awareness of Ukrainian acts, and bringing them to the fore,” he says. One act Pasha has worked very closely with is Verka Serduchka, and he is very happy with the success she has achieved with her fun brand of music, especially her achievement at Eurovision 2007. “Verka is not quite right for the Top 20, but we used to do a morning show together
Okean Elzy have racked up a mammoth 13 number ones, which is more than the likes of Robbie Williams and Madonna
and it was the most popular show in radio for a while.” Pasha and Verka still work very closely together, and Pasha even helped with writing the lyrics for the massive Eurovision hit, Dancing, and when it comes to those highly controversial lyrics, Pasha sets the record straight. “The words in the chorus are definitely not Russia Goodbye as many members of the press claimed. Verka came up with the line herself saying ‘Lasha Tumbai’ was a phrase she’d heard and wanted to use. We asked what it meant and she said it was Mongolian. We didn’t care, because the words are pretty much nonsense anyway.”
After Verka, the act Pasha is most proud to have worked with is Okean Elzy. “The story of Okean Elzy is a very interesting one. I remember introducing them on stage in 1997 when no one had really heard of them. My announcement was met with silence from the audience, so I feel some pride they are now Ukraine’s top music act,” says Pasha. And rightly so as Okean Elzy have racked up a mammoth 13 number ones, which, according to Pasha is more than the likes of Robbie Williams and Madonna. In fact the main event at the Top 20s 10th birthday party was a live set from Okean Elzy who performed all their number ones in chronological order. When asked if such a talented group of guys have ever considered translating their songs into English in order to widen their appeal, Pasha remains pragmatic. “It has been discussed, but Slavik’s lyrics are so special, and they use the Ukrainian language in such a beautiful way, it is impossible to translate them and retain the feeling.” There is no doubt that Pasha’s Top 20 has been instrumental in the development of good Ukrainian music including Okean Elzy and many, many more. “This is the longest running FM show in Ukraine, and we are very proud of that,” Pasha says. Long may it continue!