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Ukrainian Folk Music Reloaded


Ukrainian Folk Music Reloaded

Ukrainian folk music is getting more and more world attention and recognition. It is multidimensional, so we’d like to tell you all about it!


Ukrainian folk music is diverse. Ritual and festive songs, often performed without musical instruments, make up a large part of Ukraine’s musical tradition, although there are many other styles too. Folk music melodies can be found in various genres, ranging from rap or pop to rock and electro.


We start with the folk music quartet DakhaBrakha. It combines the musical styles of several ethnic groups. The band was founded in 2004 at the DAKH Centre of Contemporary Art in Kyiv by avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskyi, who now serves as their producer.


Nina Garenetska of DakhaBrakha performs live at Lark Hall in Albany, New York on July 26, 2023.
Nina Garenetska of DakhaBrakha performs live at Lark Hall in Albany, New York on July 26, 2023.

DakhaBrakha has played concerts and festivals in Ukraine and around the world. Their songs have been widely recognized and used by foreign audiences. Their music was featured in a commercial for David Beckham’s grooming products, and one of their songs is on the soundtrack of the popular TV series “Fargo” produced by American filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.


Another group born from Dakh theatre, and which often swaps performers with DakhaBrakha is called Dakh Daughters. Their style is different: a "freak cabaré", full of artistic and visual provocation, possessing a strong theatrical element.


Ukrainian music and theater project Dakh Daughters perform live at JarmaRock Fest in Gdansk, Poland on November 16, 2019.
Ukrainian music and theater project Dakh Daughters perform live at JarmaRock Fest in Gdansk, Poland on November 16, 2019.

The band became famous after publishing on YouTube the music video "Rozy / Donbass", based on Shakespeare's Sonnet 35 and Ukrainian folk songs. Also well-known is the video of their live performance on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv during the early Euromaidan protests in December 2013.


Kozak System is a Ukrainian band which frequently represents Ukraine at European and world music festivals.The band was founded in 2012 by several former members of the Haidamaky music band. In 2015, Polish media named Kozak System the most famous band from Ukraine.


Kozak System perform live in Yahotyn, Ukraine on July 23, 2023.
Kozak System perform live in Yahotyn, Ukraine on July 23, 2023.

The group’s music is a combination of rock, punk and ska, which presents an energy of lyrics and an explosion of every instrument. Their concerts feature spontaneous interactions with the audience, dancing, solos and stage scenes that cannot be replicated. In addition to promoting Ukrainian cultural and musical heritage, the band stands for independence and freedom.


They have performed numerous times to support Ukrainian soldiers at the front line and they released a music video for a song titled “To the Heroes” in support of people protesting in Belarus, together with other Ukrainian rock bands.


Joryj Kłoc is another Ukrainian ethno music band from Lviv which formed in 2008. The name of the band is derived from , an argot used by blind lyre players and kobzars, who had their own laws and chronicled heritage, which stretched back ages and continued until the 1930s. In that secret lyric dialect, the word “joryj” meant “respectful”, as well as “crazy” and “obsessed”, while “kłoc” means “a lot”, “a piece”, or “a man”.


Joryj Kłoc perform live at the Kilkim Zaibu Festival 2023 in Ukmerge, Lithuania on July 1, 2023.
Joryj Kłoc perform live at the Kilkim Zaibu Festival 2023 in Ukmerge, Lithuania on July 1, 2023.

The group uses Ukrainian in the Latin alphabet as one of the elements of their creative work. The band combines rock and roll with ethnic motifs using traditional Carpathian musical instruments. It has taken part in various music festivals in the country and abroad.


Folknery

Folknery is a Ukrainian free folk band, founded in 2009 by Volodymyr Muliar and Yaryna Kvitka. The duo travel around Ukraine and other countries by bicycle, gathering traditional folk songs and recording them with additional musical elements.


Yaryna Kvitka of Folknery performs live in Cherkasy, Ukraine on June 24, 2018.
Yaryna Kvitka of Folknery performs live in Cherkasy, Ukraine on June 24, 2018.

According to Muliar, during the cycling trip to Abkhazia back in 2009, William Faulkner came to him in a dream, suggesting that the group use his surname as a name of the band. By an amazing coincidence, the pronunciation of the last name resembled the word "folklore", the subject of the band's music. The band calls their travels “Two-wheeled chronicles”, as they travel everywhere by bicycle, exposing themselves to new cultures, traditions and unusual places.


ONUKA is a Ukrainian electro-folk band created back in 2013 by Ukrainian musicians Yevhen Filatov and Nata Zhyzhchenko. The band includes members who play musical instruments like electronic drums, the trombone, French horn, as well as the Ukrainian folk instruments bandura and sopilka.


Nata Zhyzhchenko of ONUKA performs live at the Sveta bar in Tallinn, Estonia on September 7, 2022.
Nata Zhyzhchenko of ONUKA performs live at the Sveta bar in Tallinn, Estonia on September 7, 2022.

“Ukrainian music has met with great success abroad! There is genuine interest in Ukrainian music everywhere. Of course, it is a very nice experience, but it heightens our responsibility as well. The message coming from musicians is very cool already, and you need to outdo them. Ukrainian art has set a high bar to clear. When we perform in Ukraine in front of our audience, it is one thing. When we arrive abroad, however, we have to win the vast majority of the audience as if it was our first time. It is like a test each time. Foreigners are curious about our Ukrainian instruments, and their particular sound surely serves its purpose,” Zhyzhchenko explained in one of her interviews.


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Kalush Orchestra won the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy with the song Stefania, an alternative hip hop and folk song sung in Ukrainian. It was the first rap song — and the first song sung entirely in Ukrainian — to win the competition.


Following its outing on the Eurovision stage, Stefania topped the charts in Ukraine and Lithuania and reached the top 10 in a number of other countries, such as Finland and Sweden. Kalush Orchestra has performed 200 concerts in different countries since Eurovision, visiting France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Georgia, Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, Israel, the United States and Canada.


Kalush Orchestra perform onstage at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2022 at PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf, Germany on November 13, 2022.
Kalush Orchestra perform onstage at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2022 at PSD Bank Dome in Duesseldorf, Germany on November 13, 2022.

Their concert tour of Europe last year netted 60 million Ukrainian Hryvnia ($1.6 million), which the band donated to Ukraine's war efforts. The band intended to continue collecting funds to help the Ukrainian armed forces, while also raising money for the restoration of cultural buildings that have been decimated by the conflict.


The Doox creates modern music with elements of traditional songs and ethno-rock. Their songs always feature both male and female vocal solos, as the band considers this to be a classic trait of Ukrainian songs.


The Doox perform live Docker-G pub in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 29, 2018.
The Doox perform live Docker-G pub in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 29, 2018.

In Ukrainian rock and contemporary music in general, it might be difficult to find anyone ready to beat Hardkiss. Yulia Sanina's magnetic voice, as well as the quality of the sound, go beyond time and space. The band is known for its costumes, vibes and entourage and also incorporates folk motifs in its songs, as well.


Julia Sanina of THE HARDKISS performs live at The Academy in Dublin, Ireland on March 13, 2023.
Julia Sanina of THE HARDKISS performs live at The Academy in Dublin, Ireland on March 13, 2023.

On the night of the festival of Ivana Kupala – the summer solstice – East Slavs and some West Slavs not only traditionally celebrate the elements of nature, but also choose their potential spouses and performed wedding and marriage ceremonies. Making flower wreaths and giving them to each other, jumping over the fire holding hands, looking for a fern flower, and bathing in the morning dew – these were and are the highlights of the festivities. Alina Pash dedicates her own song, consisting of archaic sounds and lyrics, to this festive day.


Alina Pash performs live at Lollapalooza Berlin 2023 at Olympiapark in Berlin, Germany on September 9, 2023.
Alina Pash performs live at Lollapalooza Berlin 2023 at Olympiapark in Berlin, Germany on September 9, 2023.

The artist was born in 1993 in Transcarpathia – the westernmost region of Ukraine on the border with Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary. Already at the age of 13, she took part in children’s and youth singing competitions and was able to enter the professional music business six years later. In 2015, she caused a scandal with her visit to Russia and occupied Crimea, but immediately distanced herself from Russia, continuing her career in Ukraine. She uses Ukrainian, Russian, and English in her self-written songs.


Mixing traditional folk music with modern electronic sounds, the Ukranian group KAZKA has a self-declared mission to “bring Ukranian culture to the world.”


Oleksandra Zaritska of KAZKA performs live at SXSW 2022 in Austin, Texas on March 19, 2022.
Oleksandra Zaritska of KAZKA performs live at SXSW 2022 in Austin, Texas on March 19, 2022.

KAZKA formed in 2017 as a duo featuring singer Oleksandra Zaritska and guitarist/keyboardist Mykyta Budash. Dmytro Mazuriak joined in 2018 on woodwinds, including the sopilka, a flute-like folk instrument.


Last but certainly not least, there’s the Ukrainian representative at the 2021 Eurovision song contest — Go_A, who wowed audiences across the world with their performance. It is a Ukrainian group founded in 2012 that combines classic Ukrainian vocals, modern electronic dance music and a powerful guitar drive with the gentle melody of the sopilka. Their song “SHUM”, an ancient pagan song sung to awaken spring, recently ranked 1st on TOP Spotify Trends.


Kateryna Pavlenko of Go_A performs live at Beleuvenissen 2023 at Grote Markt in Leuven, Belgium on July 7, 2023.
Kateryna Pavlenko of Go_A performs live at Beleuvenissen 2023 at Grote Markt in Leuven, Belgium on July 7, 2023.


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