News from and about Ukraine & Ukrainians: Ukrainian Community Press Releases
BRAMA, October 22, 2000, 11:00pm EDT
Bandurysts and memories of Stalin
Washington, D.C., - The outstanding "Experimental Bandura Trio" performed at The Washington Groups (TWG) Leadership Conference 2000 held earlier this month in the nation’s capital. The performance was unique, exciting and bold and demonstrated the best in the contemporary musical language available today for the ancient instrument, the bandura.
The bandura is a stringed instrument originating in Ukraine, where in centuries past, blind bards (kobzari) used it to accompany their epic songs. For the last three years Michael Andrec, Jurij Fedynsky, and Julian Kytasty have worked together as the Experimental Bandura Trio to develop a basis for their new "downtown-style" of free improvisation from the bandura's deep tradition and melodies. On March 29, 1957 Dr. Zynovij Shtokalko, one of the great bandurists of the twentieth century, went into the basement of his Brooklyn, New York apartment, picked up his bandura and turned on the tape recorder. Forty years later the resulting music, Atonal Etudes 1 & 2, became the inspiration and starting point for the work of the Experimental Bandura Trio.
Julian Kytasty is a prominent bandurist and music director of the New York Bandura Ensemble. He combines a thorough knowledge of the traditional instrument, passed on in his family for three generations of players, with formal training in composition and a bent for improvisational music. He has created original scores for the Yara Arts Group (a resident company at the LaMama Experimental Theatre in New York) and, most recently, for "Bread With Honey," a dance and music event with choreographer Katja Kolcis.
Michael Andrec has been arranging and composing for the bandura and performing as a soloist since the last 1980's. His bandura compositions are experimental in the truest sense of the word, with each exploring new territory for the instrument. He has been influenced by such diverse sources of American minimalists, John Cage, and traditional music from around the world (an interest that began with playing in a gamelan during his student days at Bowling Green Unversity in Ohio, USA). In his spare time, Mr. Andrec is a research scientist.
Jurij Fedynsky graduated from East Carolina (USA) with a degree in piano performance, and since then he has devoted himself to mastering the bandura and composing for it. He has developed new tunings and a repertoire of extended techniques that give his bandura music a sound unlike anything that has gone before. Jurij currently lives in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he studies bandura and plays rock-and-roll.
Julian Kytasty is the contact person for the Trio and can be reached at: Experimental Bandura Trio, 138 2nd Avenue, NY, NY 10003, email@example.com. The Trio has produced a CD titled, "Experimental Bandura Trio."
The Washington Group (TWG) is an association of Ukrainian-American professionals.
E. Morgan Williams
TO THE EDITOR: When one hears the amazing Ukrainian Bandura played, with all its wonderful musical capacity and history, in Ukraine, in the United States, Canada or anywhere around the world, one should never forget about what happened to the 'bandurysty' and 'lirniki', Ukraine's blind peasant minstrels under Stalin in the 1930's. The following exerpt is a short account of what happened. I would like to read, learn and hear more about this event and would appreciate anyone who can provide me with more information.
This tragic story needs to be told anew in the 21st Century: to be written about more by writers and composers, sang about more by singers, talked about more in seminars, painted more in new masterful paintings by artists and thus hopefully, to be remembered for all times.
- Morgan Williams
"Stalin's Massacre of the Bandurysty, Ukraine's Blind Peasant Minstrels"
By: Dmitrii Shostakovich, Russian Composer, (1907-1975)
"........national art was considered counterrevoluntionary. Why? Because it was, like any ancient art, religious, cultic. It it's religious, then tear it out with its roots. I hope someone will write down the history of how our great native art was destroyed in the twenties and thirties. It was destroyed forever because it was oral. Wen they shoot a folk singer or a wandering storyteller, hundreds of great musical works die with him. Works that had never been written down. They die forever, irrevocably, because another singer represents others songs.
"I am not a historian. I could tell many tragic tales and cite many examples, but I won't do that. I will tell about one incident, only one. It's a horrible story and every time I think of it I grow frightened and I don't want to remember it. Since time immemorial, folk singers have wondered along the roads of Ukraine. They're called "lirniki" and "banduristy" there. They were almost blind men----why that is so is another question that I won't go into, but briefly, it's traditional. The point is, they were always blind and defenseless people, but no one ever touched or hurt them. Hurting a blind man---what could be lower?
"And then in the mid thirties the First All-Ukrainian Congress of Lirniki and Banduristy was announced, and all the folk singers had to gather and discuss what to do in the future. 'Life is better, life is merrier,' Stalin has said. The blind men believed it. They came to the congress from all over Ukraine, from tiny, forgotten villages. There were several hundred of them at the congress, they say. It was a living museum, the country's living history. All its songs, all its music and poetry. And they were almost all shot, almost all of those pathetic blind men killed.
"Why was it done? Why the sadism----killing the blind? Just like that, so that they wouldn't get underfoot. Mighty deeds were being done there, complete collectivization was under way, they had destroyed kulaks as a class, and here were these blind men, walking around singing songs of dubious content. The songs weren't passed by the censors. And what kind of censorship can you have with blind men? You can't hand a blind man a corrected and approved text and you can't write him an order either. You have to tell everything to a blind man. That takes too long. And you can't file away a piece of paper, and there's no time anyway. Collectivization. Mechanization. It was easier to shoot them. And so they did."
From: Dmitrii Shostakovich
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