Jurij Fedynskyj presents the lost, national
instruments of Ukraine, the traditional
torban, bandura, and kobza
Upcoming Tour- October-December 2021 Europe
a concert of traditional Ukrainian historic songs, folklore, as well as related genres
a lecture about the heart and history of Ukraine, through her greatest poets, statesmen, and blind singers
a demonstration of what a traditional kobzar might be today
For the first time in 100 years, the traditional torban, kobza, and bandura will be heard worldwide!
For the past 12 years, Jurij Fedynskyj has worked to resurrect the traditional Ukrainian torban, bandura and kobza, after Soviet attempts to erase all memory of the instruments, players, and traditions related thereof. Since very little information has been passed on to present generations, the task of reviving traditions of instrument making, playing, and professions of propagating such music, has been significant, to say the least. Many years have gone into researching existing instruments from a handful of instruments in museums, and historic photographs. Jurij has had to study instrument making, as well as experimentation, to create professional examples of the instruments. Much research has been done as to what repertoire to play, and where to find authentic repertoire. There's also the question of the proper manner of authentic performance and technique. Lastly, the task of learning to play the instruments, and vocal technique required for historic accuracy. The final task, is the presentation of that work to the public, in the form of worldwide tours.
What is a kobzar?
For many Ukrainians, the term "kobzar" or "bandura" have become ambiguous terms over the past four generations. Most today think a traditional kobzar, to be someone who sings the poetry of Taras Shevchenko, on the fully chromatized modern bandura. Many think that Shevchenko himself was a traditional kobzar. Most consider the modern bandura, to be an authentic folk instrument. All these ideas, are quite far from the truth. How could a nation of 40 million, which cherishes its national instrument, and most beloved kobzars, simply forget? Today most Ukrainians have never heard the term torban, and have never seen nor heard neither a traditonal bandura, kobza, nor torban. How is this possible? Only recently, after the fall of the Soviet regime are we beginning to rediscover our lost kobzar tradition, and the instruments they, and the torbanists played on. After investigation on this theme for twenty years, I'm fully convinced, the answers to my questions, are that Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev, didn't want us to know the truth about our national instruments. They realized the potency of the kobzars, and the instruments they weld. They were afraid that had we as Ukrainians knew, and if the kobzars were allowed to practice in Ukraine, that the Soviet regime would lose Ukraine, and possibly lose the empire. They also understood, that to outright prohibit any type of bandura player from singing and playing, might also lead to revolt. So what did they do? They decided to twist the truth. Kill the kobzars and destroy their instruments, but propogate new communist bandurists, playing new Soviet banduras, singing praises to Stalin and the to empire. That project was all too effective. Even in the diaspora, the traditional kobzar and his instruments were forgotten.
So, what is the difference between a traditional and a modern bandura? Well, almost everything you could change, but still get away with associating the new bandura with the old variety. The modern bandura was never meant to be a folk instrument, rather something along the lines of a portable piano, on which classical music could be played, or at least, pseudo classical works with folklike melodies. The instrument is tuned as a piano, chromatically, even with a modulating mechanism. It's not as heavy as a piano, but weighs about ten times more than the traditional bandura. The traditional bandura is tuned diatonically, to specific kobzar tunings, specifically designed for blind players. The 60 some metal, high tension stings of the modern bandura sound and feel quite different than the 20 some gut, low tension strings of the traditional bandura. The Traditional bandura has a neck not just for added string length for basses, but also to depress strings to the fretboard, as on a bass guitar. In fact the traditional bandura was not a modified piano, but rather a modified, or let's say, a Ukrainian version of the lute, with added treble strings. But the main difference between the two instruments, is that they are not compatible with each other. You can't play kobzar repertoire on a modern bandura, just like you can't play the classical Moonlight Sonata on a kobzar's bandura. That's what the Soviet's wanted- a new modern instrument which could pass as a bandura, but one on which one would never effectively play traditional repertoire, as the kobzars did. The modern instrument was designed to effectively overshadow, and eventually wipe out the traditional instrument, repertoire, and mostly, the kobzars themselves. They were successful, until now.
It's important to note, that aside from the Soviet policy of Ukrainian cultural and spiritual repression, the modern bandura and its repertoire were forged by progressive Ukrainians such as Hnat Khotkevych, Vasyl Yemetz, and Hryhory Kytasty. Their work was phenomenal, and at first, popularized the bandura like wildfire throughout Ukraine. But just after their initial positive results and success, their work was halted, repressed, and effectively replaced by a very different Soviet version. Many bandurists such as those associated with the Ukrainian Bandura Chorus, managed to escape the Soviet space, with their lives, and continue to create a positive modern bandura idiom. Also, during the Soviet years, many bandurists struggled greatly through horrendous conditions, to support the truth in Ukraine, risking their lives doing so. Especially today, a new generation of modern bandurists are creating a wholesome modern Ukrainian culture with the bandura. I beleive that through thorough mastery and understanding of the kobzar tradition, will the foundation for a modern Ukrainian musical culture be forged. Both are inherint for a healthy new Ukraine.