Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hutsul Music: Traditional & Ruslana-fied

Jessica gives a great analysis of motivations behind preservation of 'postcard people' cultures during the Soviet era. One of the topics that has interested me of late is the way in which Hutsul culture -- embroidery, music, dance -- has become commodified. A quick Google search for "Hutsul art" yields numerous hits for Ukrainian gift shops that cater not only to Ukrainians in Ukraine, but those in the diaspora. With many other aspects of Ukrainian culture suppressed or diluted under Soviet rule, it's not surprising that the traditions of 'postcard people' are gradually being reclaimed not necessarily as Hutsulyj, but more broadly as Ukrainian. Ruslana seems to have had more than a bit to do with this -- check out her song and video "Znaju Ja" for some Carpathian inspired music and great scenery of the area.

On the other hand, it seems that many Hutsul traditions are alive and well in smaller villages -- my YouTubing turned up a fun video series of a recent Hutsul wedding. Enjoy the music and the costumes:

Also, a quick word on the music: in addition to its unique collection of traditional instruments and frequent use of the tritone (augmented fourth or diminished fifth), traditional music of the Carpathians (both in Ukraine and Poland) is characterized by a very distinct singing style. Most notably, men and women sing in the same register, which leads many to observe that the babas singing seem to be really belting out their notes. You can here this a few minutes into the video above.

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