The best Ukrainian folk songs
Music Theory

The best Ukrainian folk songs

The Ukrainian people at all times stood out for their musicality. Ukrainian folk songs are a special pride of the nation. At all times, regardless of circumstances, Ukrainians composed songs and passed them on from generation to generation in order to preserve their history.

Archaeological excavations reveal more and more ancient evidence of the origin of the Ukrainian song. It is not always possible to determine when the song was created, but the words, music and mood take us back to their time – the time of love, war, common grief or celebration. Immerse yourself in the living past of Ukraine, getting acquainted with the best Ukrainian songs.

International “Shchedryk”

Shchedryk is perhaps the most famous song in Ukrainian all over the world. The Christmas carol gained worldwide popularity after the musical arrangement of the composer Nikolai Leontovich. Today, the wishes of fertility and wealth from Shchedryk can be heard in famous films and TV shows: Harry Potter, Die Hard, Home Alone, South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Mentalist, etc.

Щедрик щедрик щедрівочка, прилетіла ластівочка! Щедрівка Леонтович

Curiously, the memorable Ukrainian melody has become a real symbol of Christmas in the United States – during the holidays, the English version of the song (“Carol of the bells”) is played on all American radio stations.

The best Ukrainian folk songs

Download sheet music and full lyrics – DOWNLOAD

Oh, sleep walks around the windows…

The lullaby “Oh, there is a dream…” is known far beyond the borders of Ukraine. The text of the folk song was recorded by ethnographers as early as 1837. Only 100 years later, the lullaby appeared in the repertoire of some orchestras. In 1980, everyone heard the song – it was performed by the legendary singer Kvitka Cisyk.

The American composer George Gershwin was so impressed by the gentle and melodic sound of the Ukrainian folk song that he wrote Clara’s famous aria “Summertime” based on it. The aria entered the opera “Porgy and Bess” – this is how the Ukrainian masterpiece became known all over the world.

The best Ukrainian folk songs

Download sheet music and full lyrics – DOWNLOAD

Moonlight night

Although the song is considered folk, it is known that the music was written by Nikolai Lysenko, and a fragment from the poetry of Mikhail Staritsky was taken as the text. At different times, the song underwent significant changes – the music was rewritten, the text was reduced or altered. But one thing has remained unchanged – this is a song about love.

The lyrical hero calls on his chosen one to go with him to the gay (grove) in order to admire the moonlit night and silence, to forget at least for a while about the difficult fate and vicissitudes of life.

A very melodic and calm, but at the same time emotional song in Ukrainian quickly won the love of not only the people, but also famous filmmakers. So, the first verses can be heard in the famous film “Only Old Men Go to Battle”.

The famous “You tricked me”

“You deceived me” (if in Russian) is a very cheerful and groovy humorous Ukrainian folk song. The plot is based on the comic relationship between a guy and a girl. The girl regularly appoints dates for her chosen one, but never comes to them.

The song can be performed in various variations. The classic version – a man performs verses, and the female voice confesses on the refrains: “I deceived you.” But the whole text can be sung by both a man (in the choruses he complains about deceit) and a woman (in the verses she herself tells how she led the guy by the nose).

Svadebnaya “Oh, there, on the mountain…”

The Ukrainian wedding song “Oh, there, on the mountain …” is known to everyone who has ever seen the cartoon “Once upon a time there was a dog.” The performance of this kind of lyrical songs was considered an obligatory part of the marriage celebration.

Древо. Ой там на горі...

The content of the song, however, is by no means conducive to the atmosphere of the holiday, but makes you shed a tear. After all, it tells about the separation of two loving hearts – a dove and a dove. The dove was slain by the hunter-archer, and the dove was heartbroken: “I flew so much, I searched for so long, I couldn’t find the one I lost …”. The song seems to instruct the newlyweds, urging them to appreciate each other.

The best Ukrainian folk songs

Download sheet music and version of the lyrics – DOWNLOAD

Black eyebrows, brown eyes

Few people know, but this song, which has almost become a legend, has a literary origin. In 1854, the then-famous poet Konstantin Dumitrashko wrote the poem “To Brown Eyes”. This poetry is still considered one of the best examples of 19th century love poetry. Sincere sadness for the beloved, spiritual anguish, ardent desire for mutual love and happiness so sunk into the souls of Ukrainians that soon the verse became a folk romance.

Чорнії брови, карії очі ~ Анатолій Солов'яненко~Из коллекции мировых шедевров

Cossack “Bring Galya water”

At the beginning of the song, young and beautiful Galya carries water and goes about her usual business, ignoring Ivan’s persecution and increased attention. A guy in love appoints a date for a girl, but does not get the desired intimacy. Then a surprise awaits the listeners – Ivan does not suffer and is not beaten, he is angry with Galya and simply ignores the girl. Now Galya yearns for reciprocity, but the guy is unapproachable for her.

Несе Галя воду. Українська народна пісня.

This is one of the few examples of love lyrics atypical for Ukrainian folk songs. Despite the unusual plot, the Ukrainians fell in love with the song – today it can be heard at almost every feast.

A Cossack was going across the Danube

Another famous Cossack song. The plot is based on a dialogue between a Cossack going on a campaign and his beloved, who does not want to let go of her beloved. It is not possible to convince the warrior – he saddles a black horse and leaves, advising the girl not to cry and not to be sad, but to wait for his return with victory.

Їхав козак за Дунай

Traditionally, the song is sung by a male and a female voice in turn. But choral performances also became popular.

Whose horse stands

A very unusual historical song. There are 2 versions of the performance – in Ukrainian and Belarusian. The song is present in the folklore of 2 nations – some historians even classify it as “Ukrainian-Belarusian”.

Traditionally, it is performed by men – solo or in chorus. The lyrical hero sings about his love for a beautiful girl. He could not resist strong feelings even during the war. His languor impressed Polish directors so much that the melody of a folk song became one of the main musical themes of the legendary film With Fire and Sword.

Ой, чий то кінь стоїть

Oh, on the mountain, the reapers are also reaping

This historical song is a military march of the Cossacks, presumably created during a campaign against Khotyn in 1621. Fast tempo, drum rolls, invocative text – the song is rushing into battle, spurring on the warriors.

"Ой, на горі та й женці жнуть" 1985 Ukrainian song

There is a version according to which the Cossack march gave impetus to the Norilsk uprising of 1953. Some historians believe that a strange incident laid the foundation for the uprising – passing through the camp for political prisoners, Ukrainian prisoners sang “Oh, on the mountain, that woman will reap.” In response, they received automatic bursts from the guards, and their comrades rushed into battle.

Christmas carol “New joy has become …”

One of the most famous Ukrainian carols, which has become a vivid example of the successful combination of folk and religious traditions. Wishes characteristic of folk carols were added to the classical religious content: long life, well-being, prosperity, peace in the family.

" Нова радість стала " - колядує студія " Водограй ".

Traditionally, the song is sung by a chorus of different voices. In Ukrainian villages, people honor old customs and still go home on Christmas holidays and sing old folk songs.

The best Ukrainian folk songs

Download sheet music and full text of the Christmas carol – DOWNLOAD

In Soviet times, when a major anti-religious campaign unfolded, new songbooks were printed. Old religious songs acquired new text and meaning. So, the old Ukrainian carol glorified not the birth of the Son of God, but the party. The singers no longer wanted happiness and joy for their neighbors – they longed for a revolution of the working class.

However, time put everything in its place. The Ukrainian folk carol has returned its original message. Cossack and other historical songs are not forgotten – the people have preserved the memory of ancient times and deeds. Ukrainians and many other nations rejoice, marry, mourn and celebrate holidays to the eternal tunes of Ukrainian folk songs.

Author – Margarita Alexandrova

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