Let's plunge into the history of Ukrainian musical instruments today!
The most popular instruments in Ukraine have been the bandura, sopilka, violin, and tsymbaly.
Folk musical instruments were used primarily at dances and for marching - for example the wedding march, as accompaniment to popular plays - like the koza, or vertep, or for simple listening enjoyment.
Musicians who play the bandura are referred to as bandurists. In the 19th to early 20th century traditional, bandura players, often blind, were referred to as kobzars. It is suggested that the instrument developed as a hybrid of gusli (psaltery) and kobza (lute).
The sopilka most commonly refers to a fife made of a variety of materials (but traditionally out of wood) and has six to ten finger holes. Sopilkas are used by a variety of Ukrainian folkloric ensembles recreating the traditional music of the various sub-ethnicities in western Ukraine, most notably that of the Hutsuls of the Carpathian mountains. Often employing several sopilkas in concert, a skilled performer can mimic a variety of sounds found in nature, including bird-calls and insects.
The skrypka (violin) is a bowed string instrument you're probably most familiar with. Older types of this instrument existed in Ukraine as early as the 9th century. The modern violin, developed in Italy, was introduced into Ukraine at the beginning of the 17th century and became extremely popular as a folk instrument in ensembles of troisti muzyky (three musicians).
The tsymbaly (cimbalom or hammered dulcimer) is a folk musical instrument whose strings are struck with two small padded sticks. It consists of a shallow rectangular or trapezoidal wooden sound box with 16–35 clusters of gut or wire strings stretched lengthwise across the deck. Tsymbaly playing is popular in western Canada among the ethnic Ukrainian diaspora there. Numerous music competitions exist and the instrument defines what "Ukrainian-ness" is in the local music scene.
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