by Lady Gaga.OF HISTORICAL INTEREST
Known since at least medieval times, the bandura
is the iconic instrument of Ukraine's folk music, resembling the lute
and the oud
. Some also see a connection to the Russian psaltery-like gusli
, which is, however, strummed
rather than plucked. In more modern times, it has diverged from its close relative, the more lute-like kobza
, although in earlier times the terminology was doubtless more fluid. Copper has long since replaced the original's sinew strings.
The bandura's master, the kobzar-bandurist
, occupies a central place in Ukrainian culture. The image of the blind minstrel
who sings lays, recitative laments
, and folk epics, his instrument in hand, provided the title and imagery to the cornerstone of Ukrainian literature, Taras Shevchenko
. For centuries, bandurists had entertained the royal courts of Poland, Germany, and Russia. Here are some short biographies
of historical bandurists, including concert bandurists, folk kobzars (both blind and sighted), and early ethnomusicologists, many of whom suffered under both Imperial and Soviet regimes.
, click on thumbnails) shows some examples of historical variation in the instrument's design. Here
is an older-style instrument being played.
By the 20th century, the kobza had fallen into relative obscurity and two main schools of bandura design had come to dominate. The standard or Kyiv-style bandura is the larger instrument. In the Kyiv style of play, the dominant hand plucks the shorter body strings (the prystrunky
) and the other hand plays the low strings located on the bridge. This instrument appears in prima
varieties. The prima has 55 to 58 strings and is tuned in G major, while the concert bandura is strung with 61 to 65 strings and has a special machanism for changing key quickly (the shestok
). By comparison, the so-called Kharkiv-style
bandura is smaller, allowing both hands to pluck the strings on the instrument's body. Unlike the Kyiv-style, it is a chromatic instrument. It is also more popular with the Ukrainian diaspora, although it also appears to be making inroads in Ukraine. A quick summary is available here
and a demonstration of the Kharkiv playing style is here
(sadly without sound).
Both types of bandura are, paradoxically, produced by two factories in Lviv
, following two historical models (see the historical note
An amateur instrument-maker's blog
details the process of creating one of these instruments. This post
explains the bandura's tuning mechanism. The blog's author provides additional details with more photos here
. There are professional bandura makers
in North America as well.
is Hnat Khotkevych
, a bandura scholar from the turn of 20th century, playing the bandura in a scene from the 1936 film version of a historical play by Shevchenko.
In recent years, young performers
have become media darlings by covering popular favorites. Two of the most prominent such performers are the Kyiv native Yaroslav Dzhus
and young Odessite Georgiy Matviyiv
Mr. Dzhus (b. 1988) began with the accordion and wanted to play the harp, but was told that it is an instrument played strictly by women. His bandurist training began in ninth grade. He eventually completed a course of musical education at a local bandura academy, training in performance, composition, and musical direction. Mr. Dzhus's big break came in 2010 with his appearance on the second season of Ukraine's Got Talent, where he reached the semifinals (tryouts
). Instead of entering the compatition himself the following year, Mr. Dzhus presented the panel of judges with a novelty bandura sextet of young "alternative" performers (tryouts
More interestingly, Mr. Dzhus also appeared at the 2010 commemoration of the Ukrainian famine of 1932–1933 in Toronto (1
, just the Carol of the Bells
from part 3). While there, he also played a small house concert: 1
. More recently, Mr. Dzhus has also appeared with the Roman Archakov jazz project and various guests (1
) and performed
with the Japanese Ukraine-o-phile and bandurist Charlie Sakuma
Mr. Matviyiv (b. 1987) tends to describe his music as "jazz" and has appeared extensively at national and region festivals of jazz and folk music. Thus far he has released three albums, here listed with sample tracks:
Here are some concert and festival appearances: 1
. He also covers some classics: The House of the Rising Sun
, Super Mario Theme
, Monti's Csárdás
Of course, there are plenty of accomplished contemporary bandurists other than young hotshots like Dzhus and Matiyiv. Take, for instance, accomplished concert musician Dmytro Hubyak, who plays concert pieces (1
) as well as modern arrangements of folk songs (1
). Oh, and he's covered
The bandura is no stranger to Ukrainian folk rock, either. Here's Kobza, a band that has included a bandurist (with an amplified bandura, no less!) since its inception in 1971: Три трембіти
, Впали двi зiрницi
The substantial Ukrainian community in Canada has preserved the bandura tradition and maintains ongoing ties with the homeland. The Greater Toronto area is home to the Canadian Bandurist Capella
, an all-male choir that performs and records a variety of historical and sacred music under the musical direction of Victor Mishalow
. Some concert pieces: Тарасова Ніч / Гайдамацька пісня
| Розпрягайте, хлопці, коні / Бандуристе, орле сизий
| Гoмiн Степів / Грай, кобзарю!
Also, here's a sample of their Canon in D
and a lovely home recording
by one of their younger bandurists.
The Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus
, which is also all male and is based in Michigan, has existed in some form since 1918: 1
. Here is an interview with some members: 1
And in case you haven't had enough bandura pop covers: bandurist triplets cover Robert Miles
, Linkin Park
, and more.
And some more random bits and bobs:
- The Kyiv Kobzar Workshop (UKR site) is on YouTube and has a channel full of cool stuff.
- SvitBandur.com (i.e., "Bandura World") has a big audio gallery with MP3 recordings of bandurists past and present (click on portraits to get to each artist's page with audio clips).
- Olijnyk, Concerto for Two Banduras and Orchestra: 2 | 3. This may be an older recording of the first movement.
- An interview with Julian Kytasty, the son of Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus founder Hrihori Kytasty: 1 | 2; an improvisation for bandura and soprano sax; high-brow New York multimedia bandura experience: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
- Bandura electronica?
- Bandura Tico-Tico?
- Google Schemer wants you to "take on the Ukrainian bandura."
- This super-hammy street performer kept showing up in my search results, so I guess here he is: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4. His name is Stepan Shcherbak.
- Before you think that all young Ukrainians are bandura-playing angels who wear colorful folk outfits, here's some authentic Ukrainian youth culture.
- Uh, if you wanted to improve your Ukrainian by reading fan-translated manga, I guess you could?