Concert of Authentic Ukrainian and Russian Folk Songs





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Published on 10 Mar 2008

Wedding Songs and Rituals:

A little over a year ago, while I was still living in Riga, Latvia, the Bozhychi Ensemble from Kyiv came to do a concert of wedding songs and rituals with the Riga-based Russian folk ensemble, Il'inksaja Pjatnytsa.

The structure for the concert was that of a Ukrainian Cossack marrying a Russian bride. In the footage, the people on the left of the stage are from Bozhychi and on the right are the Il'inskaja members--but you can also tell them apart based on what language they sing and speak in! Also, Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa is made up of women, while Bozhychi Ensemble has both men and women performers.

One should be able to follow the mini-drama rather easily. Presented are typical wedding songs and a re-enactment of negotiations for the marriage, which finally happens in the end.

Also, note that this is just a snippet of the full concert, of course.

This was a rare occasion to see two excellent, highly regarded ensembles singing together. Both of these ensembles are uncompromisingly dedicated to village-based authenticity in their performances.

A note authenticity: To my mind, authenticity doesn't mean old; it refers to how people sing and dance in villages today as much as what we might imagine how they danced in the world of "back then." Authenticity is not a matter of content so much as it is of style. The authentic is the style of village-based players versuses what I call the Sovietski Bullshitski style—i.e., that style of adding a lot of arrangement and harmony to the music, and too much choreography, too much ballet and too much classical technique to the dancing. In sum, authenticity is a refusal of too much music-school refinement, and an affirmation of village-based rawness, with all of its (at times out-of-tune) virtuosity.

As summarized on Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa's site, in a not-so-great English translation from the site:

"The word 'authentic' is possibility to distinguish the real tradition from its imitation. It is gigantic work, but it's our life."

One can choose to sing and dance in the village style, or to imitate it with too much flowery rendition, as in the Sovietski Bullshitski style.

Tradition is a style. Authenticity is a matter of style. New content can always be added, but the style must not be forgotten and the authentic must not be confused for what is the product of music and ballet schools, and for what is still presented by so many big folk ensembles.






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