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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

Other Ethnic Groups

Immigrants from other areas of the world

The Ukrainian people

Cultural Profile of their country of origin- Ukraine

Artistic Expressions: Traditional Music

Traditional Folk Music

Traditional Ukrainian music is mostly heterophonic. That means that the same melody is distributed among different voice parts, with one leading voice, mostly in a middle register. The lead singer (called zaspivoovach) starts, and they determine how the melody continues, and the other voices usually join in later. This heterophonic group singing is often enhanced by another voice in a very high register (or vyvodtshyk).

This principle allows whoever is the principal voice to be able to improvise, adding continuous variation, and embellishment. It has also an effect on the lyrics; single words or phrases are lengthened by vocalisms or enlarged with additional syllables. This type of choral singing can frequently be found in Central Ukraine, in the steppes and in Eastern Ukraine, where also lyrical ballads are very popular.

Traditional Ukrainian music has two broad categories: ritual and non-ritual. Ritual folk songs are usually much older and feature incantations, lamentations, calendar songs, and wedding songs. Non-ritual songs include dumy, or historical and political songs, and lyric songs of love, family life, and lullabies. The Cossack songs and dances from this particular category have become very famous around the world. This kind of music has its roots in a centuries old oral tradition of bylina (epics, heroic narrative poetry) and dumas, long lyrical ballads glorifying the experience and life of the Cossacks.

Traditional folk music is very important for Ukrainians. These songs speak about their history, about their people and their characteristics and qualities, and about the advantage of this sort of community, and the landscape these people live in. They also tell about their ethics and rules for social life and interactions among them. They are a cultural treasure that has been lovingly preserved up to date.

The songs in traditional Ukrainian folk music can be classified in various genres, as well as in ritual and non-ritual songs. For more information on the songs and the instruments used to play them, visit this page here. You can also visit their Wiki page here. This page also has information on their music.

Some of the most popular folk songs in Ukraine

People in Ukraine love to sing, and that's probably why there are close to 200,000 Ukrainian folk songs. Most of them are really old, some dating as far back as 600 years ago, and since they are so old they have many variations. This compilation is a showcase of only 10 of them. The majority of these folk songs are either about love, or about saying goodbye.

Ти ж мене підманула (Ty zh mene pidmanula / You Tricked Me)

This song tells the story of a pretty girl that plays with the feelings of a young man in love. She says she would meet him many times, but doesn't. This song is full of joy- not sadness. The young man is encouraged by her behavior.

Ой, Марічко (Oi, Marichko / Oh Marichka)

This song is a conversation between a young man who wants to spend time together, and a young woman who pretends to be shy (but she's really not that shy). It's usually played at weddings.

Била мене мати (Byla mene maty / Mother Will Spank Me)

This song tells the story of a young woman that sneaks out of her house to see her boyfriend. She puts water on the hinges of the front door, so when she comes back in no one will hear the door open. When she comes back, she finds her mother waiting there and she thinks, "oh, no! Mom is going to spank/beat me!". But the mother doesn't, because the mother used to do the same thing when she was a girl.

Несе Галя воду (Nese Halia vodu / Halia is Carrying Water)

This song is another conversation between young people in love; this time in a humorous way. It sounds more dramatic than it really is.

Чом ти не прийшов (Chom ty ne pryishov / Why Didn’t You Come)

This is a dreamy love song. A person asks another why they missed their date. They say that the problem was that their younger sister hid the horse saddle so that they couldn’t go anywhere. Fortunately, the older sister found it, and so they finally came.

Ніч яка місячна (Nich yaka misyachna / What a Moonlit Night)

This song was composed by Mykola Lysenko with lyrics from a poem by Mykhailo Starytsky. It is so popular that it is regarded as a folk masterpiece. A boy invites a girl to go out into the night and spend time with him. He describes the beauty of night time and tells the girl how wonderful she is.

Ой, у вишневому саду (Oi, u vyshnevomu sadu / Oh, in the Cherry Orchard)

This is the story of a girl in love. She went out to see her loved one, even though she wasn’t allowed to. The song is very sad- the couple had to say goodbye.

Ой чий то кінь стоїть (Oi chyi to kin’ stoyit / Oh, Whose Horse is There)

This song is about a Kozak who fell in love with a woman, but has to leave her and go to war.

Пливе кача (Plyve Kacha / A Duck is Swimming)

This is a farewell song. It has become popular after the requiem for Euromaidan heroes in 2014. A duck crossing waters is a symbol of death, crossing to the other side. It is a lament that speaks to the dangers and price of war.

The language used is an example of the Transcarpathian dialect.

Червона рута (Chervona ruta / Red Rue)

The author of this song is the well-known songwriter Volodymyr Ivasiuk. It is so popular in Ukraine, that there's videos of whole stadiums full of people singing it.

To listen to more songs, and learn more about the musical history and folklore of Ukraine, visit the Polyphony Project page.

NOTE- With this installment of our culture series, we talk about the culture of the country of Ukraine- a place that right now is fighting for their right to freedom and independence. Since that part is being covered by regular media, we will focus on portraying their culture, their people, and other notable details- and not delve into the tragedy they are currently living.

Stay tuned for more information on Ukraine and its culture, and more places and their people in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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