Beatport Next: 8Kays is Fighting the Good Fight, One Dance Floor at a Time

Ukrainian artist 8Kays is bringing the beauty and glory of her home country’s ecstatic dance music scene to the rest of the world.

12 min
1 5
Jul 21, 2022
Cameron Holbrook

Hailing from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Beatport Next artist Iryna Shvydka (aka 8Kays) continues to make a name for herself as one of the melodic house & techno scene’s most cherished acts. An experienced DJ and producer who previously made trance music under the moniker IRA, she created her 8Kays project in 2015 to further expand her sonic horizons with a dynamic sound that has resonated with dance floors around the globe.

With passionate releases and remixes out on imprints like Renaissance Records, Blaufield Music, Radikon, Bedrock, Anjunabeats, and Oddity Records, she’s recently become one of Afterlife‘s go-to bookings — performing showcases at Off Week in Barcelona, We Are FSTVL in the UK, and the label’s season opener at Hï Ibiza.

Despite her worldly travels, Iryna’s heart and mind remain at one with her homeland. In March, the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced her to relocate to Berlin at the onset of the conflict. In addition to weaving together emotional dance floor journeys for all the enjoy, Iryna works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds to purchase humanitarian aid for those in need in Kharkiv and beyond.

We caught up with Iryna to learn more about her electronic music origins, how her life has changed since her forced move to Germany, and how she uses her performance skills to help those in need in her native Ukraine.

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Hey Iryna, thanks for joining us! Where are you currently located, and what have you been up to this past month?

Thanks a lot for having this conversation together! For me, it’s heavily important to speak about the current realities of me and my country now. I was happy living in Ukraine but needed to flee to Berlin due to the war.

I’ve just played in HÏ Ibiza for Afterlife’s season-opening and have also performed in Istanbul, Dubai, and Izmir, to name a few. Also, being in Barcelona to play the Afterlife stage during Off Week Festival was a super great experience. Besides that, last months I’ve been settling myself in Berlin where I am trying to work and live now.

Your love of dance music came through your love of trance. Can you let us in on some of the music that first captured your imagination?

It didn’t happen right away. It all started with the music of The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. Somehow my friend brought me several sets of Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk recorded on CDs, and from that moment on, my involvement began with this music. At the same time, we started listening to artists like John Digweed, Sasha, and Deep Dish. My friend Dima forever changed my general attitude towards music and life (thanks to him for this).

When did you first start DJing and producing music?

There was a seven-year difference between these two events. First, I started as a resident in one of the Kyiv clubs, where you play for 7-8 hours a night. Then, step by step, I realized that I wanted something more and gradually began to get involved in music production.

You used to work in legal theory. What was it like leaving that job to become a full-time musician?

Yes, indeed, I worked as a full-time lawyer, but around the same time, I started thinking about creating another moniker. So I started from zero in every aspect of my life. Sometimes I think about how my life would have turned out if I had remained a lawyer, but I understand that it was impossible because this difficult decision came from my heart and soul. Sooner or later, I would have chosen music anyway. I am very happy that I decided to risk back in the days then. Thus I can do what I love the most now.

You had a lot of success under your trance moniker IRA before expanding your sound further as 8Kays. Can you tell us more about that transition and how your production style has evolved over the years?

The transition was logical progress. With all the love for trance music, I felt I needed more space where I could not be bound to any specific genre. I needed a new scene name that could get brighter and wider than a particular sound. It was also an evolution for me, as my earlier productions certainly differ from the sound I produce and release now, which is also understandable. I am inclined to think that if you don’t develop and do cliche things, you’ll be outrun by those who spend their efforts to be new and upgrade themselves daily and hourly.

What are two of your original tracks that hold a special place in your heart?

The first would have to be “Rainbow” because this track marked a new milestone in my career, and people love it very much. It came out very quickly and easily. I still love to play it and see that people still react to it the same way as before.

The second would have to be “Easy.” I made this track with my very good friend Diana Miro, and the most special thing about it is she dedicated the track’s lyrics to me. This person knows me very well, and I’m delighted to have such a talented friend. And in general, gifted people are my weakness!

You recently premiered your Time:Code video — a recorded performance of you playing a set at Kharkiv Philharmonic, just a month before the invasion. Can you tell us a bit more about this experience?

The video was recorded on the 24th of January 2022 — six months after I moved to Kharkiv where I worked with creative and kind enthusiasts from the local team Basanta Music.

So when the guys suggested recording my new live video, I agreed without question. On top of that, the location was truly unique: Kharkiv Philharmonic impressed with its power and beauty. Imagining myself performing there, even with no crowd, was a big excitement and took months of preparation. I’ll never forget how relieved I was when it finished and the final phrase ‘recorded’ was pronounced.

Exactly one month later, Russia proceeded with its cruel and hazardous invasion of Ukraine. The last few months before the full-scale invasion, there was a lot of intention in the air, but our minds refused to accept that they would dare to do this. It’s been more than five months of the full-scale war in Ukraine, but despite all the support our country received from our partners, they have started to forget about the war in Ukraine and treat it like something so far removed from them and can never happen again.

I am still full of internal guilt that while I do my job, our country is being destroyed by Russians. That’s why it’s crucial to now help Ukrainians as much as possible.

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2022 has been an extremely tough year for you, your family, your friends, and your country. Can you share some of your experiences from leaving Kyiv? What has it been like having to settle so far away from the city you love and call home?

It remains incredibly difficult for millions of people in Ukraine and its refugees worldwide, especially those under temporary Russian occupation.

I still remember with pain the first two weeks I spent in Ukraine when the war began. It was a tough decision, but after you constantly hide in the basement, you hear explosions near your house and the sounds of gunfire; you have thoughts that you need to do something. I left two of my native cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv (where my studio was for the last half a year). Sometimes, I still think that none of this is real, and in the morning, I will wake up in my bed at home. This war continues to take the lives of Ukrainians: children, civilians, fathers and mothers, young people who will never again be able to do what we can do today thanks to their courage.

What can your fans do to help?

We cannot close our eyes and remain silent about what is happening. Your help can be a donation, or you can help refugees who find themselves in a difficult situation outside their homeland. You choose.

But please don’t close your eyes and turn away from this screaming injustice and this literal hell on earth. Ukraine is beautiful. If you want to help a humanitarian organization, we collect donations for the humanitarian needs of Kharkiv.

Here is the link:

What music do you have upcoming in the nearest months?

I got the interesting projects planned, but it’s still a bit too early to speak about them just yet! I released my latest Libertas EP on Darkness & Light back in June, and my “Morning After The Rave” track has just been released on Afterlife as part of Unity compilation. I can’t wait to share more projects with you all soon!

Listen to 8Kays’ ‘Morning After The Rave’ chart below or check it out on Beatport.

Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American Editor. Find him on Twitter or Instagram.

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