It can hardly get any better...

Volodymyr Kushpet
Ukrainian minstrel tradition

between the 18th - the early 20th centuries
Instruments: Kobza, Lira, Torban, Bandura



01. Dudochka (The Pipe), Kozak-valets (dances) – kobza
02. Kyselyk (dance) – kobza
03. Duma about Khvedir bezrodnyi (a cossack psalm) – acc. – kobza
04. Rozpynanie Khrysta (The crucifixion of Christ (psalm) – acc. – lira
05. Mlynok (The Mill) / Savradym / Molodychka (A young women) (dances) – bandura
06. Georgiu (chant) – acc. – lira
07. Podorozh Vaclava Rzhevus'koho (A jorney of Vaclav Rzevusski – acc. – torban
08. Vidortova pisnya (Vidort's song) – acc. – torban
09. Spiv Revukhi (Revukha's singing) – acc. – torban


01. Pobratavsya sokil (Falcon fraternized) (according to the authentic kobzar's genre definition – "street" song) – acc. – bandura
02. Bida (A trouble) (authentic definition – "shtuchka") – acc. – bandura
03. Pro Savu Chaloho (a cossack song) – acc. – bandura
04. Potop (The Flood) (psalm) – acc. – lira
05. Kaperush (dance) – acc. – lira
06. Khhrystu na khresti (To Christ on the cross) (psalm) – acc. – kobza
07. Duma pro udovu i tryokh syniv (Duma about a widow and three sons) – acc. – kobza
08. Hey hook, maty, hook (18th century cossack song) – acc. – kobza
09. Khloptsi-molodsi (Cheerful fellows) (by S. Rudansky) – acc. – kobza
10. Oy, jihune [gigolo] (19th century humoristic song) – acc. – kobza



   "To save a monument of your nation's life from oblivion - that is a truly heroic deed, which even now bears its full value in the eyes of every educated human being".
 P. Kulish.

Volodymyr Kushpet (born 1948) is an influential Ukrainian baritone singer, and player on torban, kobza, bandura and lira, he is noted for reconstruction of traditional playing techniques on these instruments. He is the author of a primer for these instruments and an in-depth study of the institution of Kobzar Guilds, associations of itinerary blind singers in Ukraine.

Volodymyr Kushpet studied bandura initially under Andriy Omelchenko and then later completed his studies at the Kiev Conservatory under Serhiy Bashtan. Along with Kost Novytsky he was one of the founding members of the KOBZA pop group and played an electrified bandura in the ensemble.

Later Kushpet performed in a duo with Novytsky playing instrumental primarily classical transcriptions on the bandura. Kushpet became extremely interested in the authentic bandura and particularly the kobza as played by Ostap Veresai, after being introduced to Heorhy Tkachenko. From the transcriptions made by M. Lysenko in the 1870s Kushpet has managed to restore most of the repertoire performed by Veresai.

Kushpet teaches as the kobzar school in Strytivka near Kiev and at one time at the Kharkiv Musical-Drama Institute. Recently he has also taught the torban for a short period of time at the Kiev Conservatory.


 Traditional culture as a whole, and music culture in particular, is always a subject of changes. In order to comprehend the essence of such changes, that have influenced its development, we would have to distinctly separate the artificial processes from the natural ones.

The absence of the Ukrainian state has forced out the ancient customs into the conservative countryside environment. It is there, in those songs and rhymes, ballads and legends, the spiritual testament of our ancestors was being preserved.

One of the reveals of ethno-cultural self-expression could be traced in the music sphere. Apart from very popular in Ukraine collective singing, the individual performance, accompanied by kobza, lira, torban and bandura have also developed. The blooming era of this genre would be the period between the 15th-18th centuries. But from the late 18th cent, in the city music culture the national music priorities yield to the european. The demand for the secular minstrels dissapears, and the traditional folk set of instruments (except torban) remains only in the hands of blind travelling old men. Each period of this genre's existance requires a detailed analysis.

Claiming that all previous minstrels were "kobzars" would've been a rather unfair statement. The reconstruction of instruments and the methods of using them, and finally - covering the authentic new material - this is the only way to make correct solutions in practice.

The comparative analysis of different music samples from the "kobzars", "torbanists", "lirnyks", "bandurists" of the 18th - the early 20th centuries shows the existance of genre and performance differences within traditions, that have emerged owing to different tasks (secular, spiritual, social, political, etc.), that minstrels had to confront throughout different historic periods. These recordings are an attempt to bring social attention to the processes of reconstruction of traditional performance, which nowadays is a working model of Ukrainian historic music culture.

- from the booklet 

read some more about the music here

and some more here

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Tradition and Tragedy - Ukraine's Kobzar Minstrels
Listen closely and the Ukrainian wind may still carry an ancient song sung by blind minstrels, a song that tells a spellbinding tale of Cossack courage and their heroic quest for Ukraine’s freedom. Traveling from village to village as ox-drawn carts stumbled across muddy roads leading into dark forests, Ukraine’s minstrels once trudged past Baroque churches with Greek domes and mosaic Virgins pieced together from crimson, turquoise and emerald fragments and wandered freely across the Ukrainian steppe. Indeed, Ukraine’s blind minstrels, called kobzari, are special in the country’s history, in part, because of their traditional customs as well as their tragic ending.
Playing the kobza, a precursor to the bandura, these trained musicians plucked and strummed the instrument similar to European and Eastern lutes by touch. As far back as the nineteenth century, the kobzari formed “guilds” to apprentice boys and girls as young as five or six to master musicians. Not all apprentices passed the initiation test, however, and in an effort to offer a future to a child without sight, the kobzari guilds sanctioned beggars allowed to perform some of the songs namely the “begging song” and the “song of thanks.” The repertoire of the kobzari masters emphasized religious and epic tales, called the duma, performed outside churches and monasteries, village fairs and festivals. Guided by a sighted child, a povodyr, who worked for food, clothing and a small wage.
Kobzari, like other peasant villagers married and created families. Only blind children were allowed to be minstrels however, and other minstrel children became farmers. Absorbed into the culture and history of the country, the kobzari were welcomed by the villagers as their songs brought good luck for the soul until Stalin’s rise to power in 1939. 

Threatened by any demonstration of “national art”, Stalin considered the kobzari and their guilds an example of counterrevolutionary activity. Determined to exterminate the blind minstrels, Stalin tricked the guilds into coming to a “convention” of kobzari. “Life is better, life is merrier,” Stalin wickedly declared. Minstrels eagerly traveled to the convention from all over Ukraine, coming from tiny, forgotten villages, to celebrate their talent and history. A living history gathered only to be met with a barrel of a gun when Stalin’s henchmen assassinated nearly all of the existing kobzari.
Decades later, the songs of the kobzari have been resurrected from the annals of history. Many receive conservatory training rather than being apprentices to masters, and many more musicians are sighted. Traditions endure, however, and Pavlo Stepanovych Suprun, a contemporary blind kobzari, continues to sing surviving epic songs and composes his own material in the traditional vein of the Ukrainian kobzari. History may be occasionally silenced, but often, history refuses to be ignored. 

some more to read

This record is one of these rare 10 out of 10 records.
That is what my ears and my heart tells me.
Thank you for listening!


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