Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 13 (March 27, 2022): Music of Ukraine

Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 13 (March 27, 2022): Music of Ukraine

This Week’s Theme: Music of Ukraine

My decision to celebrate the music of Ukraine is obvious, but if you are reading this in the future then I can simply say that March 2022 is the month that russia’s megalomaniacal, sociopathic president decided to cause a sovereign nation’s destruction, tens of thousands of deaths (and still counting), and irreparable harm to millions of lives. If this isn’t the time to celebrate the music of Ukraine then there never will be. Слава Україні!

Welcome to Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 13.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.

Spotify

Amazon Music

Before researching this week’s show, I knew very little about the history of Ukrainian music. I will assume that is true for most people, but that doesn’t mean Ukraine has a less rich and influential musical history than other nations. The result of my research includes traditional, folk, classical, dance, jazz, blues, rock, rap, pop, metal, and experimental music. Like any nation with centuries of musical history, the music of Ukraine is broad and deep and I was barely able to scratch the surface with two hours of songs.

Ukrainian Music History (a short and incomplete lesson)

Traditional Music

Shchedrivka

Any discussion of Ukrainian music, at least in the West, should begin with a recognition of the song “Shchedryk.” This song, composed in 1916 by Mykola Leontovych, was originally titled “Bountiful Evening” in Ukrainian and was known in English as “The Little Swallow.” The original lyrics tell the story of a swallow flying into a household to sing about the wealth that will come to the family in the Spring. It was written in a traditional Ukrainian song form called shchedrivka and was meant to be sung on New Year’s Eve (January 13 on the Julian Calendar). Originally performed by students at Kyiv University, the song is based on a traditional Ukrainian folk chant and uses a rhythmic device called hemiola, alternating the accents within each measure from 3/4 to 6/8. The four-note, minor third chant pattern is believed to be of prehistoric origin, although it was adapted after the introduction of Christianity to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Songs sung for this holiday, Shchedry vechir, are known as schedrivky, which is why the Ukrainian version is often simply called “Shchedryk.” The song was thrown into the Western holiday canon on October 5, 1921 when Peter J. Wilhousky heard it performed by the Ukrainian National Chorus at Carnegie Hall. He wrote new lyrics and published the song as “Carol of the Bells” in 1936. The Christmas version drops all of the original lyrics, and is now one of the most beloved holiday songs in North America.

Translation of the Ukrainian original

Bountiful evening, bountiful evening, a New Year’s carol;
A little swallow flew into the household
and started to twitter,
to summon the master:
“Come out, come out, O master,
look at the sheep pen
there the ewes have given birth
and the lambkins have been born
Your goods are great,
you will have a lot of money, by selling them.
Your goods are great,
you will have a lot of money, by selling them.
If not money, then chaff from all the grain you will harvest
you have a dark-eyebrowed beautiful wife.”
Bountiful evening, bountiful evening, a New Year’s carol,
A little swallow flew.

Vopli Vidopliassova “Shchedryk”: This song has been recorded by thousands of artists in all styles of music. I selected this version by one of the original Ukrainian rock bands. They formed in 1986, but this is from their 2013 album Chudovy Svit.

Koliadky

Similar to shchedrivka, koliadky are festive songs sung at Christmas time that retain traces of their origin thousands of years ago.

Thomas de Hartmann with the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine “Koliadky, Op. 60: I. Chant Spirituel”: The Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine is one of Ukraine’s oldest symphony orchestras.

Vesnianky

Vesnianky are Ukrainian spring dance songs that have been performed for thousands of years.

Korinya “Vesnianky”: This song by Ukrainian family folk-music band Korinya weaves together several different vesnianky dance songs.

Hopak

The hopak is the National Dance of Ukraine. It was originally a male dance among cossacks, but is now danced by couples, soloists, and mixed groups. It is prevalent in amateur and professional dance performances, and is found in operas, ballets, and theater productions.

Natania Davrath and Erik Werba “Hopak”: Davrath was a Ukrainian opera singer in the second half of the 20th century.

Classical

Like most European nations, Ukraine has a long history of classical music, composers, and performers.

Alexander Gavrylyuk with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney Symphony “Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major, Op.55, 4. Larghetto”: Gavrylyuk is an award-winning Ukrainian pianist who moved to Australia as a teenager in the ’90s and now works with orchestras around the world.

Nina Matvienko

Nina Matvienko is a Ukrainian national musical treasure. She is a People’s Artist of Ukraine, the highest honor awarded to musicians. She was born in SSR Ukraine in 1947, and has devoted her career to the performance of Ukrainian folk music as well as the fight for female equality in her country. In 1988 she was awarded the Shevchenko National Prize, named after Taras Shevchenko, and was the first performer of works by many 20th century Ukrainian composers.

Note: The poet Taras Shevchenko was the original kobzar (a Ukrainian cultural bard) and was the creator of modern Ukrainian literature and the modern Ukrainian language, although the language of his poems was not the same. He was a 19th century poet, writer, painter (including several masterpieces), illustrator, and politician.

Near the beginning of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Matviyenko’s 2017 performance of Yevhen Stankovych’s When The Fern Blooms was live-streamed by the Lviv National Opera. This work was originally scheduled to premier in 1978 but was then banned by the Soviet government, who destroyed all of the costumes and banned it from performance.

Nina Matvienko “Wild Geese”

Matviyenko’s 2017 performance was the debut of this now-beloved work. Her performance coincided with her being named the 2017 Ukrainian Person of the Year.

The Nationalist Movement in Ukraine

Zaporozhets za Dunayem

Music nationalism spread throughout Europe in the 19th century. These movements focused on the use of folklore to arrange folk songs and the development of theaters to stage works based on national themes. The opening of theaters in Kyiv (1803) and Odessa (1810), combined with a movement toward nationalism, allowed for the creation of Ukrainian opera. The first Ukrainian opera, Zaporozhets za Dunayem, was composed by Semen Hulak-Artemovsky in 1863.

Boris Gmyrya “Zaporozhets za Dunayem”: Gmyrya was a Ukrainian opera singer during the Soviet-era. He was embroiled in political problems throughout his career, but was one of the premier singers of his time.

Mykola Lysenko

Mykola Lysenko was a 19th century composer, conductor, and pianist and an important proponent of the nationalist music movement in Ukraine. His compositions incorporated Ukrainian poetry, such as the works of poet Taras Shevchenko, and blended folk and classical music. Lysenko opened the first Ukrainian music school in Kiev in 1904. He was the musician most responsible for the classical music tradition of Ukraine.

Allyson McHardy and Albert Krywolt “A Mother’s Sorrow”: This is taken from a wonderful 2013 multi-volume collection of Lysenko’s art songs featuring Albert Krywolt on piano and various opera singers on vocals. The title itself made this the obvious selection to start this week’s show.

Eurovision

Ukraine first performed in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003, and scored their first victory in their second year of entry. They have won twice in sixteen attempts (Ruslana in 2004 and Jamala in 2016) and are the only remaining country in the contest’s history with a 100% semi-final qualification rate. They have seven Top 5 placements, third only to Sweden and russia. Last year’s entry, Go_A, came in fifth with their fantastic song “Shum.”

Ruslana “Wild Dances”: Ruslana won the 2004 contest on Ukraine’s second try with this song. It has an infectious groove with some traditional Ukrainian instrumentation thrown in. It was tailor-made to win the contest.

Jamala “1944”: This song won the contest in 2016, two years after the Russian annexation of Crimea. It is a song that is based on the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944, including her great-grandmother who lost her daughter while being deported to Central Asia. The song is also a criticism of the 2014 Crimea annexation and the war in Donbas which has now spread throughout Ukraine. Jamala is currently one of millions of mothers who have fled Ukraine with their children due to the Russian invasion. Slava Ukraini!

Monatik “Зажигать (JoMo)”: Monatik was a semi-finalist in the 2017 contest with his song “Кружит (Spinning).” “JoMo” is a 2021 single.

Go_A “Solovay”: Go_A placed fifth in 2021 with their song “Shum,” but they were originally selected to perform in 2020 before the contest was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. Their 2020 entry “Solovay” is very similar to “Shum,” both employing traditional Ukrainian instrumentation with fantastic dance grooves.

A year later and this song is still friggin’ awesome and the video is superb.

Tina Karol “Zakrili tvoi ochi”: Karol was the 2006 entry for the contest. She placed seventh with her song “Show Me Your Love.” She is now a mentor and judge for Ukraine’s National Selection show.

Modern Music

After gaining independence in 1991, the music of Ukraine has quickly grown to include all kinds of popular music. Like most global pop music of the 21st century, Ukrainian artists sing in both their native language and in English, and often incorporate Western music with traditional instrumentation and song form.

Rock

“VIA” Kobza “Love Me”: Kobza (the VIA was a requirement of the Soviet government to indicate they were a vocal/instrumental group) were the most famous pre-independence Ukrainian rock band. They were formed in 1971 and performed for forty years. After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, they worked for years as advocates for disaster relief. After Ukrainian independence they continued to perform, although most of their original members had retired. Most of their original members have been awarded Ukrainian National Artist awards, as well as many other international awards.

Oleksij Kerekesha and the Fata Morgana Band “Aymn Moi”: Formed in 1987, this was Kerkesha’s band before going solo in the 21st century. They focused on the poetry of Taras Shevchenko for their lyrics. This song is from the album Ukrainian Kobzar.

Komu Vnyz “Shvachka”: This Ukrainian band formed in 1988. Their name is a derogatory pun of the term communism and translates to “who needs to go down?” This song is from their second album, released in 1990 just before Ukraine gained its independence.

Flit “Kumy”: Flit are a modern Ukrainian punk band who sound like Blink 182, The Offspring, and the rest of the bands who sound like that. This song is from 2021.

Brunettes Shoot Blondes “You’ve Got To Move”: This Ukrainian indie-rock band has been around for a little over ten years. This song is catchy, but it is especially great for its opening line of You said you didn’t like Duran Duran, we should have stopped before it all began. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Brunettes Shoot Blondes are a great example of a band who should be much more popular than they are, both in Ukraine and around the world. Not only are their songs catchy as hell, but they produce their own videos and are masters of the craft.

This is one of the greatest music videos ever made and has over 64 million views.
I don’t even know what to say. This is a band who deserve to be recognized for their craft.
This video is creativity at its finest.

21st Century Pop

Max Barskih “Туманы”: Barskih is a singer/songwriter who has been recording for a little over ten years.

Jerry Heil “#NOWTA”: Heil started as a teen-aged YouTuber who recorded covers. She is now a Ukrainian pop star. This is her brand new single.

Kazka “Plakala”: This is one of the most popular and successful songs by a Ukrainian band. The video for this song has over 200 million views on YouTube (making it the country’s most popular video) and was an international hit.

Nu Virgos “Stop! Stop! Stop!”: Nu Virgos are one of the most successful Ukrainian girl groups. This song is from their heyday and is their most popular.

Onuka “GUMA”: Onuka are an electro-folk band who have been recording since 2014. Their music attempts to revitalize Ukrainian folk traditions in an extremely modern way.

Kazka live in 2021
An early Jerry Heil cover
Gorgeous video for the Onuka song “CEAHC”

Rap and Metal

You can’t talk about music from Eastern European countries without recognizing the popularity of metal. Next to Scandinavia, there are probably more black metal bands per capita in this part of the world than anywhere else. There are also a lot of Ukrainian rappers, just like there are all over the world. I only included one example of each, but could have easily filled the entire show with rap and metal artists.

Alyona Alyona “20 tonn”: This new rap artist has released a bunch of singles in the last two years.

Jinjer “Pisces”: This metalcore band has been going for about fifteen years. This is from their second album King of Everything, released in 2016.

Experimental Ukraine

After gaining independence in 1991, the music of Ukraine was allowed to expand into the avant-garde and experimental. The last thirty years have been filled with a wide variety of artists and music that expand on the history of Ukrainian music in a way that only artistic freedom allows.

The Dakh Contemporary Arts Center

The Dakh Contemporary Arts Center is a theater and music venue in Kyiv. During its almost thirty-year history, the center has developed several dramatic and musical groups, including DakhaBrakha and Dakh Daughters. These artists are now some of the main ambassadors throughout the world for the presentation of Ukrainian music, art, and culture.

DakhaBrakha “Vynnaya Ya”: This is probably my favorite discovery of the show. Hand claps over upright bass, weird vocals, mouth trumpet, tempo changes, tongue trills – great experimental music. This song led me to investigate the work of this band and they are blowing me away.

Wonderful animated video
Once again, Tiny Desk comes through with a winner.

Dakh Daughters “Rozy”: This song is a fantastic mix of the modern, the experimental, and the traditional. I love it. I can’t decide if DakhaBrakha or Dakh Daughters are my new favorite band.

This is why YouTube is important. Stop whatever you are doing, watch this, and believe in the power of music. Slava Ukraini! 
Great performance, live at the Kennedy Center 2019 (the poor audio quality is unfortunate for an official Kennedy Center recording)

Julian Kytasty and Michael Alpert “Adam and Eve”: Born in the United States to a family of Ukrainian refugees, Julian Kytasty has devoted his musical career to the study of the music of his heritage. He is a bandurist (player of a traditional stringed Ukrainian folk instrument) and kobzar.

Mariana Sadovska “Blessing”: This powerful song by this Ukrainian-born vocalist is from her 2010 album Vesna.

Pavlo Titiaiev “Homo Ludens VI: A Pair of Anecdotes on a Well Known Subject for Trombone (composed by Volodymyr Runchak)”: This 9-minute piece is definitely Difficult Listening. It is solo trombone with vocalizations and mouthpiece breathing. Runchak is one of Ukraine’s most important avant-garde composers, and Titiaiev is a 23-year old, award-winning, Ukrainian trombonist who first performed at Carnegie Hall at age twenty.

Sadovska channels her inner Kate Bush
Piano, trombone, simple, beautiful

Ukrainian Born

All of the artists in this week’s show were born in Ukraine, but three of them found their fame in the United States during the early 20th century.

Lew Brown was born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1893 and his family immigrated to New York when he was five. He was a Tin Pan Alley lyricist, starting his career before graduating high school. His songs include “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries,” and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.”

Glenn Miller Orchestra “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)”

Art Hodes was born in Ukraine but immigrated to Chicago, IL when just a few months old. He was known as the greatest white blues pianist and enjoyed a fifty-plus year career.

Art Hodes “Train Leaving On Track 10”

Hodes performs the jazz standard “Caravan” live in ’68 with Barney Bigard, the man who first recorded the song in 1936.

Sophie Tucker was born in Ukraine but immigrated to Boston, MA when she was one-year old. She was The Last Of The Red-Hot Mamas, known for her bawdy humor and risque songs. She was one of the most popular performers of the early 20th century in both the US and around the world.

Sophie Tucker “Aren’t Women Wonderful”

Artist of the Week: All Ukrainian musicians, past and present

Слава Україні!

Slava Ukraini! 

Glory to Ukraine!

Before this week, I felt most proud of Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 25 (Around the World in 30 Songs), a show featuring artists from thirty different countries. This was due to the amount of research required to create the show, which was almost entirely filled with artists I’d never heard before. This week’s show is now my proudest. The events that led me to make it are the worst reasons imaginable, but I’m glad I did it. Like the international show, this week’s show required research for almost every artist and song, but my decision to focus some selections on the history of Ukrainian music required even more research than I thought possible, given the time I am able to put into the creation of these shows. In the end, I’m glad I put in the effort and I hope that anyone who listens to the show feels the same solidarity with this country’s people that I feel after making it. Glory to Ukraine.

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

TrackArtistSong Title
1Allyson McHardyA Mother’s Sorrow
2Vopli VidopliassovaShchedryk
3Go_ASolovay
4RuslanaWild Dances
5Jamala1944
6DakhaBrakhaVynnaya Ya
7Komu VnyzShvachka
8Oleksij Kerekesha and the Fata Morgana BandAymn Moi
9KorinyaVesnianky
10Mariana SadovskaBlessing
11OnukaGUMA
12Alyona Alyona20 tonn
13Max BarskihТуманы (Amazon)/Just Fly (Spotify)
14VIA KobzaLove Me
15Nina MatvienkoWild Geese
16Sophie TuckerAren’t Women Wonderful
17Art HodesTrain Leaving On Track 10
18Glenn Miller & His OrchestraDon’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)
19Natania Davrath and Erik WerbaHopak
20Boris GmyryaZaporozhets za Dunayem
21Pavlo TitiaievHomo Ludens VI: A Pair of Anecdotes on a Well Known Subject for Trombone
22JinjerPisces
23FlitKUMY
24Brunettes Shoot BlondesYou’ve Got To Move
25Nu VirgosStop! Stop! Stop!
26MonatikJoMo
27KazkaPlakala
28Dakh DaughtersRozy
29Tina KarolZakrili tvoi ochi
30Jerry Heil#NOWTA
31Julian Kytasty and Michael AlpertAdam and Eve
32Alexander Gavrylyuk with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Sydney SymphonyProkofiev Piano Concerto No. 5 in G Major, Op.55, 4. Larghetto
33Thomas de Hartmann with the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of UkraineKoliadky, Op. 60: I. Chant Spirituel

3 thoughts on “Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number 13 (March 27, 2022): Music of Ukraine

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