Sunday, August 8, 2004

On Tuesday, April 8th, the Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University presented a show of Ukrainian contemporary music and poetry performed by one of the most prominent musicians in Ukraine―Taras Chubai. Taras is the leader of a popular rock-band Platch Yeremiyi (Jeremiah’s Cry) and the son of legendary Ukrainian poet Hrytsko Chubai, a 70s-era dissident, who was persecuted by the Soviet regime.

The verses of Hrytsko Chubai, Viktor Neborak, Kostiantyn Moskalets, Yurii Andrukhovych—popular both in Ukraine and abroad—brought together more than 130 guests from Columbia University, New York’s Ukrainian community, and simply those with an interest in Ukraine and its contemporary culture. The energetic and gripping performance that lasted two hours, kept the audience riveted with Taras’s powerful rock compositions and magnificent lyrics.

The audience that arrived at the James Memorial Chapel to enjoy Taras’s virtuoso acoustic guitar performance was treated to a dozen songs, most of which are usually played by a full rock band. Moreover, as Taras explained to the audience, several of the compositions are often performed accompanied by a symphonic orchestra. At the New York concert, Taras’s performance was complemented by beautiful vocals and percussion courtesy of Yaryna Yakubyak, lead-singer of another famous Ukrainian rock band, Mertvyi Piven (Dead Rooster). Together, these musicians gave the audience a taste of the unforgettable atmosphere of the Western Ukrainian cultural awakening of the late 80s and 90s, inspired by Ukraine’s independence, which had spawned a whole new wave of Ukrainian artists and poets. Between the songs, Taras engaged the audience in a dialogue discussing and describing those times when, as he said, the public raised poets to the rank of superstars. The poetic grouping Bu-Ba-Bu (Burlesque-Farce-Buffoonery), which widely introduced itself at the Vyvykh festival in Lviv in 1992, won popular acclaim in the 1990s with its poignant neo-baroque philosophic response to the depressing social and economic crises of the early years of Ukraine’s independence.

The final chords of the fan favorites Litaiucha Holova (Flying Head) and Vona (She) received long-lasting applause from the grateful audience. The Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University is delighted that the Ukrainian poetry complemented by Taras Chubai’s music received such a warm welcome in New York and looks forward to presenting equally stimulating events in the fall of 2008, featuring other prominent Ukrainian literary figures of today.

Oksana Shulyar
Ukrainian Studies Program