Ukrainian music has a long and important cultural history. Much of the traditional folk sounds are still evident in Ukrainian pop music today. Ukrainian folk music is characterized by rich instrumentals such as the bandura (a string instrument), sopilka (a duct flute), and strong vocals.
Whereas completely traditional folk music is not as prevalent in Ukrainian culture anymore, it is still very much alive in pop and alternative music. One of the biggest Ukrainian pop stars is Ruslana, the Eurovision song winner of 2004.
Ruslana jumped to popularity with her album Dyki Tansi (Wild Dances) in 2003, and it is still her best-selling album in Ukraine. Since then, the singer has released other music (some of it in English), her s
ongs appearing on iTunes, Spotify, and record stores around the world.
Other than her music, Ruslana is also known for being a very prominent activist in Ukraine. In the last decade, the pop star has protested and supported Ukraine through its multiple revolutions.
She proved her nationalism during the Orange Revolution in 2004 with her performances in the Independence Square. She came back this past year to demonstrate during Euromaidan in Kiev, actively supporting Ukraine and its sovereignty. She performed on stage almost all night for nearly two weeks.
Many different folk sounds and upbeat drumming characterize Ruslana’s music. She is also a dancer, and her performances are
very energetic and nationalistically charged.
Another popular Ukrainian band is Mad Heads. There is also quite a bit of folk influence in their music, but are considered a punk rock band. They also sing of very nationalistic and cultural themes, and were large activists in the Orange Revolution as well.
For Ukrainian Americans, this type of music is a great way to maintain an identity with one’s culture. Zahar Buniak, who grew up in a very Ukrainian household enjoys seeing musicians like Ruslana perform in America.
“I remember how happy she was that so many people showed up to support her,” he said. “She was proud that the Ukrainian culture remained strong for even those of us who came to America. Ruslana represents to me the national pride all Ukrainians have no matter where they are, because our struggle has only made us more fiercely nationalistic.”
Ukrainian music has evolved tremendously throughout the years, but it still holds on to its traditional roots. This is important for the music of Ukraine to play an important role in the countries political turmoil. Слава Україні!