Chornobyl Songs Project

Chornobyl image

The Chornobyl nuclear disaster of April 26, 1986, forced hundreds of thousands of people, including those in the rural, musically rich Kyivan Polissia region, to leave their homes and villages. Separated from their homeland and cultural context, communities were broken apart and centuries-old musical traditions were largely lost. This spring, Smithsonian Folkways will release Ensemble Hilka’s Chornobyl Songs Project: Living Culture from a Lost World, an album re-creating these all-but-vanished songs. Based on earlier field recordings of songs that would be heard during the course of a typical year in a Polissian village, this collection offers an invaluable re-imagination of a traditional culture whose unique sonorous legacy lives on through the project. Spearheaded by ethnomusicologist Maria Sonevytsky, the New York–based Ensemble Hilka formed to perform these songs on the 25th anniversary of the disaster. Trained by the renowned Kyiv-based ethnomusicologist and singer Yevhen Yefremov, Ensemble Hilka is comprised of singers from New York City, many of whom came to the project unfamiliar with Ukrainian traditional song, yet committed to learning these vocal repertoires as a gesture toward the global impact of nuclear disaster.

On Wednesday, April 22, the Zozulka Trio (Willa Roberts, Eva Salina, and Maria Sonevytsky) will perform selections from the rural Ukrainian repertoires featured on the recording as well as lyrical songs from neighboring regions. The concert will begin with a short set featuring Bard’s new Eastern European Ensemble.

8 PM, Bard Hall, free and open to the public. Co-sponsored by Bard Ethnomusicology, the Center for Civic Engagement, Russian and Eurasian Studies, and Urban and Environmental Studies.

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