ABOUT THE BANDURA
The national musical instrument of Ukraine
The bandura is the instrument that best embodies the voice and soul of Ukraine. From a musical perspective, the bandura unifies acoustic principles of both the lute and the harp. This produces a sound that is emphatic and gentle, resembling that of a harpsichord, but with a wide range of dynamics and tonal control.
The bandura’s development closely reflects the history of the Ukrainian nation, dating back hundreds of centuries. It was first noted in a 6th century Greek chronicle in reference to warriors from Ukrainian territories who played lute-like instruments. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it became prominent in the courts of Eastern Europe and among the Ukrainian cossacks. Throughout its history, the bandura was used primarily for song accompaniment, dance melodies, and traditional dumy pieces - epic narrative set to music. The bandura was historically played by blind minstrels who traveled from village to village singing these epic ballads and historical songs. Over centuries, the instrument has evolved in various forms.
The modern bandura has between 20 and 65 strings and is tuned like a piano rather than a guitar. There are three styles of the modern bandura: the classical folk bandura, the Kyiv bandura (also called Chernihivka), and the Kharkiv bandura (also called Poltavka).
The classical folk bandura was developed from its predecessor, the kobza, in the 14th-15th centuries. It has 20-24 metal strings tuned diatonically.
The Kyiv bandura (also called Chernihivka) is the most common bandura found today. It was mass produced during the Soviet Era in two areas of Ukraine. It has 55 to 64 strings and is tuned chromatically through almost five octaves.
The Kharkiv bandura (also called Poltavka), and its dual-hand playing technique, was first introduced in the 1920s. It has 34 to 65 strings and often includes a key-changing mechanism. This style of bandura has virtually vanished from Ukraine and is at risk of becoming extinct.