NP-UN Western Bureau.
Members of Edmonton’s Ukrainian community were given insight into several historic Ukrainian instruments and musical styles at a meeting with two traditional Ukrainian folk musicians at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall in Edmonton, September 20.
Dubbed the Kobzar Music Event, the evening was sponsored by the local branches of the UNF and the Ukrainian Women’s Organization.
The two musicians, Yuriy Fedynskyy and Oleh But travel widely making similar presentations around the world.
Fedynskyy, who is actually an expatriate who moved from his native United States to Ukraine to study the musical traditions, demonstrated three traditional Ukrainian instruments, which he created in his own workshop.
The first of these, the Torban, is a stringed instrument that combines the features of the Baroque Lute with those of the psaltery. The Тorban differs from the more common European Bass lute known as the Theorbo in that it had additional short treble strings (known as prystrunky) strung along the treble side of the soundboard.
The multi-strung, expensive in manufacture, stringing, maintenance and technically difficult fretted turban, which first appeared around 1700, was considered an instrument of Ukrainian gentry, although most of its practitioners were Ukrainians and Jews of low birth, with a few aristocratic exceptions like Hetmans Ivan Mazepa and Andriy Rozumovsky.
Another, the Kobza, was traditionally gut-strung, lute-like stringed musical instrument with a body hewn from a single block of wood. It acquired widespread popularity in the 16th century, and was often used to accompany epic songs called dumy sung by travelling bards called kobzars, and often reflecting the battles of the kozaks for freedom. It was these kobzars who provided the inspiration for Taras Shevchenko’s poetry which was first published in his popular collection aptly named Kobzar.
In the 18th century, the Kobza evolved into the bandura, which in its early form (which is the kind Fedynskyy demonstrated) had approximately four to six stoppable strings strung along the neck (with or without frets) (tuned in 4ths) and up to 16 prystrunky, strung in a diatonic scale across the soundboard. The bandura existed in this form relatively unchanged until the early 20th century, first getting upgraded to 31 strings in 1926 and, by 1954 to the “concert Bandura” which can have anywhere from 56 to 68.
Fedynskyy performed several numbers on all three instruments which were very greatly appreciated by the audience.
He was poetic about the power of music, quipping at one point “Putin has nuclear weapons, we have nuclear torbans”.
But, who leads the folk group Buttia, in Ukraine, demonstrated a traditional violin, played with a curved bow, and a busker’s bass drum with attached cymbals.
Along with leading and accompanying traditional dances with participants, he also demonstrated a range of traditional rhythms prevalent in various regions of Ukraine, including Hutsul, Polissia, Boyko and Dnipro Ukraine.
In many regions the traditional music relied on continuous sound in a style know as Burdon.