Saturday, May 30, 2009

Folk songs are the people in Ukraine

Irena Bell, who produces the Ukrainian radio program in Ottawa, recently shared an interesting article that appeared in the English-language online version of the Ukrainian newspaper День (Den' ... The Day).

The title of the article is: "Folk songs have become the people in Ukraine." The jist of it is that in its repertoire of folk songs resides the heart and soul of the Ukrainian people.

I couldn't agree more! And it applies to diaspora Ukrainians every bit as much ... if not more.

In countries around the world, descendants of Ukrainian refugees (often several generations down) carry on this tradition. Evidence can be found in the vast array of Ukrainian music produced outside of Ukraine.

I'm not talking about bland, run-of-the-mill commercial music ... which sounds like any contemporary tune produced anywhere, with the only difference being Ukrainian language lyrics (and in some cases, not even that). There is of course a large appetite for that kind of music, and well-funded commerical interests cultivating and profitting from it.

What I'm talking about, however, and what the author of this article is talking about, is music with much more depth, colour and personality. Music with roots. Music that reflects the heart and soul of the Ukrainian people ... rather than some oligarch's bottom line.

The author speaks of:

... the truly invaluable treasure left by our forefathers, a treasure which is correctly regarded as an outstanding achievement of the Ukrainian community at large and its national culture. There are material treasures that lie buried for ages, and there are live treasures that symbolize the immortality of the Ukrainian nation and are handed down from generation to generation, mesmerizing us with their innermost magic.

Without doubt, Ukrainian folk songs are among these treasures. These songs are essentially an extremely beautiful synthesis of heartfelt poetry and captivating melodies. Without them our cultural life loses all its beauty.


He goes on to describe the richness, the depth and the breadth (over half a million Ukrainian folk songs!), and laments the lack of awareness of these treasure amongst contemporary Ukrainians. He calls on the newspaper to do more to support and promote this music. To its credit, the paper has offered space for articles on folk music festivals (such as those organized by Oleh Skrypka) and encourages submissions on the topic. Let's hope folk music affidionados will take advantage of this fabulous opportunity and send in articles about some of the music and the performers.

Meanwhile, half a world away in North America, producers and listeners of radio programs like mine are doing our best to give this music airplay. I'm sure I speak for all in saying that we are absolutely delighted to receive promo CDs and especially liner notes and backgrounder info ... and if the info is provided in English as well, some of us are totally ecstatic!

This article is truly a delight to read, and it contains some fascinating factoids.

Read it here.... and enjoy!

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