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Int’l grad reps Ukraine at Eurovision 2023

The representatives of Eurovision’s reigning champion took to the stage this month as part of the annual Eurovision song contest – and one of the band members was an international student. 

One of the band members of Tvorchi is an international student Photo: Eurovision

Kehinde attended the Ternopil National Medical University

Jimoh Augustus Kehinde is not Ukrainian, but Nigerian. He ended up in the eastern European country “by chance” in 2013 when he was faced with a choice between there and the UK for study.

Speaking to a Nigerian news website, he said that due to the fact he didn’t get to study aeronautical engineering – his first choice – he was asked to “choose between going to the UK to be with my family” or going to Ukraine to study medicine. 

“I chose Ukraine for the adventure considering I’d never been here before,” Kehinde recounted. 

He attended the Ternopil National Medical University, where he then met his now bandmate in the electronic duo TVORCHI, Andrii Viktorovych Hutsuliak.

According to the PA news agency, the pair met when Hutsuliak asked Kehinde if he could help him with English – and Kehinde accepted on the condition that he could practise his Ukrainian.

Nigerians were one of the most populous nationalities studying in Ukraine until the war broke out in 2022, with Russia invading.  

The two made the decision when their degrees were “almost over” to delve into the country’s music industry. 

In 2017, their debut single Slow was released, and the pair’s debut album The Parts was released the following year. 

Fame came after a slew of appearances at music festivals around the country in 2019, and the pair also came fourth for the Eurovision selection show Vidbir in 2020. 

Despite Kehinde’s studies in medicine, his passion for “creating original music” had been alive long before that, having been his secondary school’s choirmaster for six years.

“I chose Ukraine for the adventure”

“I learnt to play the [talking] drum, a bit of the guitar, the piccolo and the drum set and I just fell in love with the whole idea of creating original music,” he said.

Ukraine has won twice in the last 10 years, with Kalush Orchestra winning 2022’s competition ahead of the UK and Jamala taking the trophy in 2016 with the haunting ballad 1944. 

TVORCHI’s song for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, which the pair wrote last year amid the war in the country, is named Heart of Steel.

In an interview with Eurovision blogger Wiwibloggs, Kehinde – who goes by the stage name Jeffrey Kenny – said Eurovision was the perfect place to speak on the “issue” of the war. 

“We’re basically using our platform to speak on some issues we know that some people are misinformed about – it wouldn’t make sense to not talk about it, it’s our specific mission. We’re not trying to throw it into people’s ears, we’re trying to inspire people with our song – we want to represent the country,” he said.

Whilst Kehinde’s story is unique, he is not the only international graduate on Eurovision’s roster this year.

Lithuania’s popular singer Monika Linkyte – who made May 13’s final with her song Stay – studied in the UK, and talked about her experience in a recent interview.

“I learnt a lot about myself. I am so happy that I took this decision because I was very afraid. Before, at university, I switched between so many subjects, but after studying in London I really got to know what I want to pursue,” she told

Other finalists who have studied abroad are Luke Black, Serbia’s representative singing the song Samo Mi Se Spava, who studied a master’s in music production at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute.

Patricie Fuxová of Czechia’s Vesna, whose song My Sister’s Crown alludes to empowerment and sisterhood, studied at the Berklee College of Music in Masachussetts.

TVORCHI finished sixth in the 2023 competition.

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