Keeping the Kobzars Alive

The primary musical figure of Ukraine has always been the “kobzar,” the itinerant musician who has traditionally played “bandura” (zither) and spread folk music and poetry. Kobzars were such an important part of Ukraine’s national identity at the beginning of the Soviet period that Stalin invited the nation’s kobzars to a conference, arrested them and…worse. The Soviets replaced independent, multicultural Ukrainian music with sterile, state-sponsored orchestras and effectively prohibited musical expression.

After the Soviet Union collapsed a new crop of kobzars rose to revive Ukrainian folk traditions, though with the ascendance of modern music like rock, pop and hip hop, true kobzars are few and far between. Want to meet kobzars? Enjoy this short documentary tribute to “the last kobzar,” Ostap Kindrachuk.