The Origins of Ukrainian Music

Traditional folk music has often been referred to as the soul of a nation, and the music and the culture influence each other greatly. And when it comes to Ukraine, this describes the symbiosis perfectly. The simple song has accompanied the people of Ukraine through every sphere of its history, be it working in the fields, or being sang in churches, it has been a constant part of Ukrainian life. If you listen to traditional Ukrainian songs at their core are deep thoughts and they have great meanings. They are songs about dreams, hopes, and feelings such as love. Folk songs have been an integral part of the lives of the people and remain so.

The Labor Songs

Much of Ukrainian music emanated from the fields and vast plains of the country. Here workers would use song as a way of giving them strength in their toils, these songs brought village communities together and galvanized the people.

The Labor Songs
The Labor Songs

Song Games

On the whole the average Ukrainian is happy with his lot and as a nation they have a fairly cheerful disposition. And some of the folk songs written were sort of game songs, these are full of humor and designed to assist solving problems and coping with difficulties in life. Mostly these songs were sang at birthdays, bachelor parties and the like. They were songs that celebrated life and were designed to bring enjoyment. Mostly these songs had family themes which is the bedrock of Ukrainian culture.

The Potted History of Ukrainian Music

The Potted History of Ukrainian Music
The Potted History of Ukrainian Music

Ukrainian music draws elements from the Eastern and Western musical civilizations. There are many Christian as well as Slavic influences that can be found in all Ukrainian music which makes it so diverse and interesting. Although not frequently admitted by Russia, Ukraine was the musical heartland of the great Empire. In fact, it was the Ukraine that was chosen to be the place to be the home of the first Russian music academy. And many of its graduates went on to be famous Russian composers and lead the way for others to follow. Because of its geographical position the Ukraine has always had a diverse ethnic identity, and much of this can be seen in the folk music and songs of the country.

Form and Content

One of the most striking characteristics of Ukrainian folk music is its popular use of minor keys. So, the highly popular Western major-minor form of music did not really get widely accepted in Ukraine. The rhythms involved in most Ukrainian folk music are complex and there are many compound meters expressed. Also, harmonically again there are big differences with Western European music as the Ukrainians prefer very complex and difficult harmonies. Often this is expressed in multiple-part harmonies which was highly popular particularly in the Steppe region of the country. The music and songs of Ukraine tell the story of the country, from its humble rural beginnings to its more industrial Soviet period. They also tell the story of the diverse peoples that have come to settle in Ukraine and to call it home.

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