Hutsul music

Music has been an everyday Hutsul life friend for ages. It became a friend when Hutsul was born, and when he or she was dying. Hutsul are strongly connected to the music of their ancestors, who saved the rhythms from generation to generation. Walking along the villages in the mountains, there may be heard the voices and songs along the glades. The signals and melodies used by shepherds can be heard played on different pipes. There are no parties, weddings or Christmas without the music and Hutsul songs. Nowadays, it can be seen that traditional Hutsul songs and dances have been disappearing. Also the musical instruments have been replaced. There are not so many dudka, telenka, floyera, horns, while trydencitka and brebenytsia completely disappeared. The repertoire has been changed and it is mostly dedicated to popular, modern songs as an effect of civilization transformations. But there is a traditional current in music, too.

Hutsul music instruments

The best way to know Hutsul music and national instruments of the Carpathians is to visit Roman Kumlyk Hutsul Musical Instruments Museum in Verkhovyna.

Hutsul instruments are very important. According to their traditions, Hutsul emphasize that the instruments have their souls. The music played can be magical and fight with an evil or help to seduce the lover. With the music played on the traditional Hutsul instruments new born baby was welcomed, the wedding was announced, the animals(marzhyna) were moved to the glade, the death was made known.

The conventional Hutsul ensemble consisted of four basic instruments – the violins (skrypka), the drum (buben), cymbals and pipe (sopilka). In the ancient times, the Hutsul ensemble had two violins and bagpipes (dudka). From 18th century reports the 1st violins played the main theme, while 2nd violins or the musician voice complemented it. In early 20th century, Hutsul ensemble played with the violins (skrypka), cymbals and pipe (sopilka). After the World War it was extended by the drum (buben). Nowadays, the ensemble is extended by accordion (bayan). The older ensembles was called as three players music (troyisti muzyky) since the beginning of 20th century. Hutsul called such ensembles muzyka with pronunciation stress on y, while normally it is stressed on “u”.

Every instrument plays a distinctive role in Hutsul music. The violins and pipes are the solo instruments, playing a main role in the theme, but the most important are violins. The pipe is made of hazel timber. It has six holes, and the voice is a combination of d, fis, a, h, c, d, e. The volume is received by the change of air pressure along the pipe with fingers opening and closing the holes.

Both pipe and violin can either work together or play a main role. The pipe has been used by Hutsul since early 20th century. Now it is the most popular instrument. Nearly, every Hutsul can play the pipe. In the past, it was used by the shepherds and children during work in the glades, and afterwards, in evenings (vechornytsi) during the spinning.

A smaller pipe is called denchivka. It has five holes and it used to be a teaching pipe for children.

The next one is called floyera. This pipe is longer than sopilka and similarly produced from hazel timber, which according to Hutsul gives a dean and pleasant tone of sound, floyera has a low continuous sound. Another simple pipe is called telenka. The sound modulation is dependent on changes of pressure of the air as well as the blow strength. This instrument was used, when one arm held a horse or a bag while the other played the pipe.

The violins (skrypka) always help in singing and ensemble playing. They need a strong technical improvement. In Hutsul land the violins are still very popular even among young people.

Cymbals are used in an ensemble playing as a complementary instrument with accords put in the holes after the drumming and making a rhythmical background. Cymbals have several bands of strings (K 15, 20, or 27) of the same sound. Every band has 4-8 strings. A hazel sticks are applied to play. Hutsul adapted cymbals from the Gypsies.

A drum (buben) is used for rhythm introduction with a small metal plate breaking the regular tone. The small drum was applied just before the World War and it was replaced by large one after the war.

A very popular is using of drymba. It is a popular Balkan instrument (drymblo) made of a scythe blade or a watch spring. It gives a monotonic metallic sound from the part mounted between two curvy plates. The instrument is place near the mouth and with the breath and a finger it starts sounding. In the past, drymba was used by women, nowadays also men use it.

A very seldom instrument called dudka (koza, dudochka, gaydy or dudy). It has been known since 18th century. It was used during the play of funeral or baptize party music (zastolna). It was played on the glades throughout the pasturage.

The instrument was used during the fairs, when the Hutsul musicians presented the dancing music (hutsulyk) or songs (melodiya).

This kind of show was presented even in the 1950-ties. Nowadays, it is presented only during the weddings or the funerals.

The instrument consists of the air bag (mich) made of the goat leather with three pipes made of sycamore – basok, sysak and karabka. Sysak is used for the air input to the bag. With a bag full of air, the player moves basok along the right hand. Parallely, the left arm presses the bag with playing on karabka. Karabka has two channels with two straw adjusters. Basok has a low sound, while karabka gives higher sounds.

A very intensive sound can be played with trembita. It was an instrument, which regulated the day on the glade. It can be used by men. Several trembita can be used in a team play also with horns. It is made of a spruce timber. It is a thin conical pipe widened from the back to the front. It has from 2.5 m to 3 m length. It is wrapped by the birch of bark with the metal top. The sound is modulated by the air pressure. Hutsul trembita is not so heavy and one person can hold it. It was believed that the best instruments can be made from the tree stroked by the thunder with the fresh birch of bark wrapped so as to wave sound could be heard from the instrument.

The horns were used to indicate the danger. They were made from the same wood as trembita was. During the pasturage on the glade the voice of horn alarmed in case of wolf or bear attack, while during the Christmas time in the Carpathians it was used by the carol singers.

There are several rules of playing Hutsul music. The most important is to finish the melody. Otherwise, the musician will have to finish it in the other world.


The singing is a part of the Hutsul ritual folk. With several family ceremonies – weddings, baptisms, feasts – the music and the singing are a part of Hutsul life. Also traditional migrations from the valleys to the glades have been done with music and singing. Another traditional activity as spinning has been disappeared, and the women singing with sopilka pipes disappeared too. Nowadays, there are three forms of singing – a solo one with one instrument, – a group singing with one or more instruments, and a solo without the instruments.

A solo with an instrument singing is performed except for the ceremonies, on the glades, but it is diminishing. The songs with a short text or rhymes is called spivanky. It can be performed with the violins, pipes, bagpipes or drymba. Today, there are mostly the violins or drymba. The singer recites the text with certain theme, and the instrumentalist plays the melody with several seconds upper and lower meanders. It is a simple variation heterophony.

The same scheme is applied, when the group singing is performed. It is typical around the Christmas time, when the carol groups sing with a violins playing the theme and mostly a solo due to the group theme singing. The violinists use double hold, while in the past a triple hold was used at the end of a phrase.

A solo and a group singing without the instruments is very rare now. Women, collecting the mushrooms or berries perform a group singing. In the Christmas time, the carols are sung by group singers or family choirs. In the Easter the religious songs are performed by groups jest before the dinner.

Some songs are long with even ninety strophes. The melody is simple scaled, pentatonic, threetonic, with easy melo-rhytmic pattern. They have a second melody step and a quart as a tonic frame.

The songs are not so fast, rather slow with easy rhythm. The lyrics is not directly attached to the particular melody. The meaning of spivanky is mostly dedicated due to the lyrics, which can be singing with various melodies and vice versa, to the particular melody several different rhymes can be sung. Some studies demonstrated, that commonly the second situation happens today. The lyrics are often about the love, fun, weddings, drinking. There are some songs dedicated to the warlords such as Dovbush. The early sounds used in Hutsul land were the calling voices of shepherds (ehokanya). Even nowadays, walking across the mountains, it might be possible to hear some voice signals with syllables la-lo-lay or e-he he. There are as in the past with the same meaning – calling, demonstrating the presence, but also warning or bothering evil. One of the shepherds stressed the need of a call (zaehokanyo) in order to feel safer and scare the wild animals. The origin of the calling voices can be found in the past, where the reality was a space of the fighting forces of good and evil. The only way to get rid of the evil was to emphasize the presence with several noisy and loudly voices.

As far as Hutsul are concerned, they still believe in a mythical world of the phantoms. They can be found in Hutsul legends, stories and songs about Chornohora. They are mostly dedicated to Pip Ivan, not Hoverla. The songs about Hoverla have been composed since 1991, when Ukraine became independent. In the texts, patriotic and liberation are emphasized and Hoverla seems to be a new national symbol.

Hutsul Dances

The dances of Hutsul show the nation nature. The basic dance (tanets) is kolomyyka. The oldest are trisunka, vysoka, piutorak, and koleso or kolo. Hutsutka is a very popular and younger dance. Such dances as arkan and resheto are not in use but their melodies are popular and played by Hutsul ensembles and danced on the stage. Such dances as trisunka and piutorok were included into the kind of dance kotomyykovo-kozachkovy like hutsulka with their figures and steps.

In the past the dance was starting with a demand of a peasant, who asked for a especially chosen music. Then, he asked girl and they were a first pair on the floor. After that next pairs were joint the floor. Today, it is a custom, which is applied during the weddings.

There are four figures in Hutsul dances. Their combinations cover all the dances.

They are called tropata (tropatanka), hayduka, holubtsi and perekruchuvannya.

At present, the most popular dance is hutsulka, which is a fast dance around the pair with all four figures applied. There are kozachok and kolomyyka rhythms and a tempo is various in different parts of Hutsul land.

Listen to Hutsul music online