Russian Folk Music - Soul of a Nation

Russian folk music is said to date back to the time when the first Slavic tribes came to settle in European Russia. Russian folk music varies between ethnic groups throughout the country. The folk music of Russia features a number of traditional stringed, wind and percussion instruments. Today, Russian folk music continues to be written and listened to. Take the time to enjoy a Russian folk music performance when traveling in the country.

The Slavic tribes who decided to live in Russia were known for their talent and love of music and dance. The music of Russia's first state, Kievan Rus, was extremely varied including Slavic styles, Finno-Urgic styles and Turkic styles. In Siberia and the Far East the music had a distinctive guttural singing sound. Many of these old folk songs remain till today.

Russian folk music and dancing has a number of genres. Calendar rite songs related to seasons as well as pagan festivals are marked by short tones and rhythm. Epic genres include bylinas, spiritual verses, skomorokh and historic songs. This tradition remains today particularly in Russia's oral folklore. Lyrical songs are the most complicated and is closely associated with drawling song said to have developed in the 16 century. This genre of Russian folk music is notable for the multi-voice singing along with solo voices. A fun-filled type of Russian folk music is Chastushka. The lyrics are poetic, satirical and humorous, resembling British limericks.

Russian music became very popular once again during the 1960s. At this time several folklore groups were formed with professional musicians. These musicians would journey to isolated villages so as to learn the intricacies of various folk music from peasant singers. Even today Russian folk music is commonly heard with singers like Zhanna Bichevskaya and Nadezhda Kadysheva.

Archeology along with evidence such as frescoes at St. Sophia Cathedral have revealed a wide selection of musical instruments used in ancient Russian folk music. Amongst them are the livenka, svirel, kugikli, zhaleika, buben, bubenci, lozhki, rubel, zvonchalka, kokshnik and vertushka. A visit to Russia is just not complete without a folk music experience, whether on the radio or at a village performance.


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