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Introduction to Traditional Lithuanian Songs
Musical folklore of the Belorussian Polessye
The Carpathians, traditional music and contemporary youth



The Carpathians, traditional music and contemporary youth
Myrosława Haniuszkina
Translated by Anna Gajda, Anna Strąk

Popularity of world music and original folklore is on the increase. Ukraine is not an exception in this world-wide process, yet until recently Ukrainian audience interested in the subject did not have their own ethno festivals. At present, the situation is changing rapidly and every year brings new events. "Szeszory" festival of ethnic music and land-art, which started in 2003, was the first to appear.


For three years now the "Szeszory" international festival of ethnic music and land-art has been taking place in a Carpathian village called Szeszory. It is far from big cities, among the lovely Carpathian greenery, on a bank of a rushing mountain river, close to the nature, a part of which man felt when he started to create music.
From the very beginning "Szeszory" has gathered folk musicians on one stage with contemporary folk groups presenting authentic folklore and its various manifestations in contemporary music. The concept of the festival is inviting folk bands whose music is energetic and far from artistic amateurism. Performances of groups from Polesie and the Carpathians belong to the "Szeszory" tradition, as it is in these regions that folk music survived in its most beautiful shape.
The Tafijczuks family band from Przykarpacie is always an ardently awaited guest of the festival: a country blacksmith Mychajło Tafijczuk created this group together with his children. He says he cannot imagine his life without music. Not only does he play all the possible Hucul instruments, but he also makes them by himself. He made his first fiddle at the age of 6.
During "Szeszory," apart from authentic folklore, you can enjoy listening to all sorts of world music, from ethno-jazz to ethno-punk. For some people such combinations may seem not too reasonable, for others, conversely, they may be appealing. "Szeszory" has been invented as an experiment where everyone can find something for themselves.
"Szeszory" is not only music. Land-art, a new trend in contemporary art, is an important element of the festival. Artists create their "outdoor objects" directly in the natural environment which becomes the place and method of incorporating artistic visions. In July, the vicinity of the village transforms into an "open-air gallery."

ONE... TWO... THREE...

The combination of ethnic music and land-art in one festival is not accidental, since both trends are based on the harmony of man and the world. Concern for the environment is one of the fundamental ideas of the festival. Indeed, the first "Szeszory" (2003) took place as a part of a European camp called "Ekotopia." It was a minor undertaking intended to prove that, apart from marvellous nature, the Carpathians can boast a rich cultural heritage, particularly musical. Most groups invited to the first festival came from Przykarpacie; from the Jew's harp players of Werchnij Jaseniw village to the explosive "Perkalaba" playing Carpathian ska (as the artists describe their music). The only foreign group to came were Russian, but the audience was international. Environmentalists came from 40 countries, not only from Europe but also from USA, Mexico, and New Zealand.
The Ukrainian audience present in Szeszory, though not very big, virtually exploded with positive emotions. It became clear that Ukraine needs its own festival of ethnic music. It was an impulse to a bigger action in the following year as Ukrainian and Russian artists were joined by Czech and Polish ones.
"Szeszory" was moved to the day of St.Kupala, one of the most well-known and liked traditional holiday which, from time immemorial, has emphasised the bond between man and nature. The festival was opened by groups from various parts of Ukraine. The eve of St.Ivan Kupala's holiday was traditionally closed by a big 'vatra' (gathering), accompanied by a raging storm which, nevertheless, did not manage to "flood" the reputation of the festival. In the next two days the audience could enjoy the music of the four countries represented in "Szeszory".
It was also the time of debuts for the artists creating the festival's open-air galleries. Here, unlike in other land-art events which are usually closed for outsiders, everyone could see their work. Among the festival novelties were also workshops on herb growing, playing old Hucul instruments, or making traditional rag dolls. Enormous popularity of the workshops was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for the organisers.
In 2005 Szeszory welcomed guests from seven countries: Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Czech, France, Moldavia, and Bulgaria. Also local people became increasingly interested in the event. It is at their request that the date of the festival was changed to 12th July - the end of the fasting time. An interesting thing was the so-called "New Stage" opened for the Ukrainian bands who came to Szeszory for the first time. Among them there were well-known names as well as new ones. They are the most interesting results of our artistic pursuits in ethno-music. The experiment ended in success. Nobody could stay indifferent to the "New Stage", though the groups performing there sometimes provoked contradictory reactions. On the stage one could see not only Ukrainian folk groups but also those representing other ethnic minorities living within the borders of Ukraine.
Moreover, in between listening to music and admiring art, Szeszory audience were dancing to folk music. Majority of workshops, part of which cropped up spontaneously, were devoted to dancing.


The festival will also take place next year. Now the event gathers almost all major Ukrainian groups referring to their musical roots. The dream of inviting world music stars from other countries is becoming more and more realistic. "Szeszory" has also been gradually gaining publicity abroad, mainly owing to the musicians performing here: they are enchanted with the fresh nature and lively contacts with local audience (elderly ladies enjoy the biggest popularity). There is a plan of familiarizing Szeszory guests with folk groups from other countries.
"Szeszory" is not a commercial event with large-scale advertising; it doesn't have to be one. There is an enormous interest in folk art and things inspired by it. This can be proved by the fact that within two years Szeszory audience has grown to almost 5 thousand (regular visitors see this number as a disadvantage, but they still promise to take their friends to the next year's festival).
Many guests offer their help in organizing the event. Musicians also rarely remain indifferent. Majority of Ukrainian bands performing at "Szeszory" play for free. In return, the festival gives them the most powerful and faithful audience. These people are not easily put off by the inaccessibility of Carpathian villages (which, by the way, allowed for the preservation of Hucul culture), or lack of comfortable conditions. Many artists prepare their new programmes especially for "Szeszory". Yet another confirmation of the popularity of folk culture is the "Szeszory" fashion, often presenting bold variations on the theme of traditional Ukrainian outfit. Finally, I would like to quote two experts expressing their opinions on contemporary youth's attitude towards folklore and tradition. I am glad that they are among "Szeszory" friends.


Pawło Neczytajło
Host of the radio programme "Warhan" - the only one in Ukraine exclusively devoted to ethnic music.
Vocalist of "Propała Hramota" band.

In Ukraine we can currently observe a boom in various interpretations of folk music. In comparison, for example, to our situation right after regaining independence, there are visible changes for the better. However, there is one "but" - we can observe a mass-scale tendency, everyone plays folk although it's normal. When the boom is over, authentic fascination will survive.
Ethnic festivals may be perceived in two ways. It is excellent that there are more and more of them, but this situation is provoked by the current political line. If normal and wise politicians govern, there will also be festivals. Our problem is the impossibility of inviting international stars. It is because the festivals often arise as local initiatives, without proper funds. Since the wave of the world music popularity has reached our country, organising ethnic music festivals will probably be easier soon. New programmes on ethnic subjects will be created in Ukrainian radio stations, an ethno-music oriented radio will also emerge if a wise person, understanding the market rules, appears.
We still do come across situations in which organisers of ethnic music festivals cannot tell the difference between the styles and they often make up their own notions of folk. A borderline between what is ethnic and what is not must be established because we have a problem with that. We all enjoy folk, but items more or less closely connected with this music are unfortunately mixed in one melting pot. It is normal to mix modern elements with archaic ones but it is wrong when the latter are accompanied by dance groups, jazz, or electronic music played by musicians dressed in folk outfits.
Undeniably, popularity of different interpretations of folklore helps to preserve tradition. Ukrainians are a nation devoted to the land; the whole folklore comes from the countryside. Now the gap between the elderly and the young who don't need folklore is particularly visible. Possibly, a small circle of musicians drawing on folklore will now return it to the general public. A similar process occurred in the 19th century: it was the town-dwellers who were explaining that the character of Mamaj the Cossack is positive, or that legends are good; they were those who gathered and popularised the legends.

Jewhen Jefremow
Ethnomusicologist, graduate of art history
Artistic manager of "Drewo" band

It is my conviction that the interest in folklore is gradually fading in Ukraine. Young people from the countryside are equally uninterested in folklore as before. They are more attracted to popular forms of culture, to the foreign light music. Only the older generation has a proper attitude to old customs. People born in the 1930s in the Polesie region still remain within the current of local tradition. One may find here conservative centres in which the old-fashioned way of life has survived. Somewhere else people are more interested in secondary culture, singing groups, shows ...
Folk songs have been best preserved in the west and central Polesie and in the Carpathians. And only in the mountains one may come across masters who create folk instruments. Instrumental music practically died out in other Ukrainian regions (Podole, Przydniprowie, the left bank of the Dnieper) about 30 years ago.
It is my impression that in the past intellectual circles in the cities were more interested in folklore which reminded them of their roots. Presently, I can observe a tendency for translating traditional music into the language of contemporary culture, popular culture, and rock For many years I couldn't understand the idea of folk singing groups, a product of socialism, but later I realized that also this genre has its audience who deserve something, as well. Contemporary variations on the theme also have the right to exist.
Theoretically, it is possible to arouse youth's interest in their roots by several secondary forms. Folklore, in its original shape without processing, can also be captivating for the wisest ones. But I don't have great hopes for that. When I was lecturing in the Institute of Culture I was constantly being told, 'Let's support the choir so as to ensure that young people can come across real folklore'. Yet, it didn't happen as the culture of a folk group is not the kind of bridge that would lead to the truth. Contemporary forms are only adaptations, they constitute a new genre and a new phenomenon.
I think the solution to the problem lies in increasing the intellectual level. Everything starts from childhood when a child is shown that there exist not only primitive songs by a Christmas tree. A child must be explained that his or her birthplace is only a little spot on the map of culture Eagerness to learn should be instilled in them so that in the future they will be able to reach beyond popular rhythms.

Myrosława Haniuszkina
Translated by Anna Gajda, Anna Strąk

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