Sh­pylyasti Kobzari prove Ukraine’s folk mu­sic cool

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY DARIA SHULZHENKO [email protected]

Ukrainian folk mu­sic has a place in the mod­ern show business. Sh­pylyasti Kobzari, a Kyiv band play­ing tra­di­tional Ukrainian string in­stru­ments, ban­duras, prove it with each of their shows.

The band says its name “re­flects the spirit of their cre­ativ­ity:” Sh­pylyasti means funny and cheer­ful, while kobzari were the folk singers who played kobza, a vari­a­tion of ban­dura.

Com­bin­ing folk songs with mod­ern mu­sic, Sh­pylyasti Kobzari pro­motes Ukrainian cul­ture — among local au­di­ence as well as abroad.

“The idea was to make peo­ple see that ban­dura can sound in­ter­est­ing in any genre and style, and show that a mod­ern young per­son can play mu­sic on ban­dura and it can be im­pres­sive and in­spir­ing,” says Yaroslav Dzhus, 30, the band’s founder and leader.

The band’s six mem­bers pro­mote the idea that Ukraine’s tra­di­tions are trendy through their looks, too: Dur­ing their shows they wear Ukrainian tra­di­tional shirts, vyshy­vankas, but pair them with ripped jeans and sneak­ers.

Sh­pylyasti Kobzari were founded in 2011 and quickly be­came fa­mous thanks to the TV show “Ukraine’s Got Tal­ent.” Apart from Ukraine, the band has toured about 20 coun­tries.

The band mem­bers be­came friends in 2006–2009 dur­ing their stud­ies at the Stri­tiv Higher Ped­a­gog­i­cal School of Kobzar Art at Stri­tivka, a vil­lage 60 kilo­me­ters north of Kyiv. They started ex­per­i­ment­ing with ban­duras, play­ing cov­ers of the world renowned hits or adapt­ing Ukrainian folk songs to show that ban­dura can be used for more than folk mu­sic.

“We also aimed to make a show that would sur­prise peo­ple, re­flect­ing the idea that any­one can play ban­dura, not only kobzars,” Dzhus says.

Play­ing in Ukraine and abroad

Sh­pylyasti Kobzari had their first show abroad in Mu­nich in 2012, one year af­ter the band was founded. Dur­ing the last year, they had more than 10 per­for­mances abroad, mainly for Ukrainian di­as­pora.

“We mostly play folk mu­sic, com­bined with other gen­res such as jazz, rock, elec­tro house and hip-hop, fa­mous dance hits, or retro songs,” Dzhus says. “We play at var­i­ous con­fer­ences, meet­ings, at em­bassies and con­sulates.”

Once, the band even tried to in­flu­ence in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics with their mu­sic.

While the Nether­lands was pre­par­ing to vote in a ref­er­en­dum on

whether to rat­ify Ukraine’s as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union in the spring of 2016, Sh­pylyasti Kobzari recorded a video ap­peal to the Dutch peo­ple, ask­ing for their sup­port. The band per­formed the Nether­lands' na­tional an­them in old Dutch.

Ok­sana Borovets, 32, the band’s art di­rec­tor, says they re­ceived lots of pos­i­tive re­ac­tions from the Dutch peo­ple on so­cial me­dia.

While abroad Sh­pylyasti Kobzari plays to pro­mote Ukrainian cul­ture, at home the band plays to pro­mote ban­dura.

That has be­come espe­cially vi­tal this year: The school of kobzar art that brought them to­gether is at risk of shut­ting down due to its un­pop­u­lar­ity among stu­dents.

The band mem­ber Volodymyr Vikarchuk, 27, says that the fact that they make a liv­ing from their shows proves that there is a de­mand for Ukrainian folk mu­sic.

Ac­cord­ing to an­other band mem­ber Yuriy My­ronets, 26, the au­di­ence of the band in Ukraine is re­ally di­verse and in­cludes young­sters and chil­dren who want to learn ban­dura, as well as older Ukraini­ans hon­or­ing au­then­tic Ukrainian cul­ture.

“Very of­ten whole fam­i­lies come to our shows,” My­ronets says. “Even more of­ten, chil­dren bring their par­ents — but not the other way around.”

The band also of­ten plays in or­phan­ages and schools, and makes char­ity ap­pear­ances. Dur­ing one such show in May of 2017, they played for peo­ple with hear­ing im­pair­ments. For this show, each of the band’s mem­bers learned a song in a sign lan­guage.

Dzhus says the band does not shun the old tra­di­tional songs, and try hard to pre­serve the au­then­tic­ity of Ukrainian folk mu­sic.

“At the same time we ex­per­i­ment with these songs, mod­ern­iz­ing them,” he says. “This is what we see the fu­ture in.”

The next live per­for­mance of Sh­pylyasti Kobzari will be held at Os­tan­nia Barykada restau­rant in Kyiv (1 Maidan Neza­lezh­nosti St.) on Aug. 31. 8 p.m.

From left to right: Volodymyr Vikarchuk, Danylo Nosko, Yuriy My­ronets, Ser­hiy Potiyenko, Yaroslav Dzhus per­form dur­ing the in­ter­view with the Kyiv Post in Kyiv on July 20. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

Sh­pylyasti Kobzari per­form dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days at Sofi­iska Square in Kyiv in Jan­uary of 2017. (Cour­tesy)

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