Ukraine is a multi-ethnic nation with a surprising diversity of people, cultures and music. The nation is home to deep folk traditions, heroic Carpathian epics, Eastern-influenced minor key compositions, complicated polyphonic harmonies and, because of its being within the territory of the “Pale of Settlement,” where more than five million Jews lived in the 19th century, klezmer.

The primary musical figure of the Ukraine has always been the “kobzar,” the blind itinerant musician who has traditional played “bandura” (zither) and spread folk music and poetry. This class of independent musician was such an important part of Ukraine’s national identity at the beginning of the Soviet period that Stalin, as part of his 1933 purges, invited the nation’s kobzars to a conference, arrested them and…worse. Only one kobzar was not able to attend the conference; he survived and passed down his traditions. With no more kobzars to concern them the Soviets replaced independent, multicultural Ukrainian music with sterile, state-sponsored orchestras and ensembles and effectively prohibited musical expression.

Ukrainian music reemerged after the Soviet Union collapsed. A new crop of kobzars rose to revive Ukrainian folk traditions. Ethnic minorities such as the Western Ukrainian Lemko and Hutsuls were able to publicly embrace their musical traditions. Rock, pop, hip hop and other modern music now abounds and served as the soundtrack to the Orange Revolution of 2004.

More information:
Wikipedia on the music of Ukraine |’s history of Ukranian music | Stepan Shcherbak and his bandura

In class we listen to:

— “Ne Spy Moya Ridna Zemla” by Mandry
Mandry describes its music as “Ukrainian Folk-Rock of the Cities!” The band hails from Kyiv (Kiev), and formed from the underground music scene in 1997, fusing, as they say on their MySpace page, “French chansons with a good dose of reggae, blues, rock and punk.”

For more information:
Mandry on YouTube: “Kalyna”: Grape eating, grape stomping, grape smashing

— “Hutsul Girl” by Ruslana from “New Sound of Ethnic Ukraine.”
Ruslana is a singer, songwriter, pianist and Ukraine’s most internationally famous pop star. In 2004 Ruslana represented Ukraine and won the Eurovision competition–a really big deal. Since then she has toured, recorded, performed at many charity concerts to benefit children (for example, children suffering from the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident), served as Ukraine’s Good Will Ambassador to UNICEF, released music to raise awareness about human trafficking, fought climate change by supporting renewable energy projects, supported the Orange Revolution and actually even served in Parliament. Through it all, she still finds time to dance in a thick fog with women dressed like pirates.

More information:
Wikipedia on Ruslana | All you’d ever want to know about Ruslana’s you can learn from the bio on her snazzy web site (be sure to note: her character is “wild”):
Height – 164 cm
Weight – 49 kg
Date of birth – May, 24
Zodiac – Gemini
Education – higher education in music, conducting
Eyes – brown
Hair – chestnut
Character – wild
Favorite colour – ultramarine
items – rock stones
place – the Carpathian mountains
hobby – extreme sport

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