It was as recently as 2013 that the region managed to get UNESCO recognition for the Petrykivka decorative painting tradition. “There are things that are not subject to time. Our region has a large reservoir of cultural heritage, that is, the Cossack culture. Cossack epics are as much the soul of Dnipropetrovsk region as the Petrykivka painting is. We want to achieve global recognition for the Cossack culture and will start with submitting the Cossack songs for addition to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List,” chairman of the regional council Yevhen Udod said at a press conference which brought together representatives of local authorities, ethnographers, and artists. Folklore researchers believe that the Cossack singing tradition has strong roots in Dnipropetrovsk region, where Zaporozhian Sich was located. They note that the Cossack song has its own unique features. Genuine Cossack songs mostly use polyphony, UNESCO expert Illia Fetysov told us. He has recently been making rounds of Dnipropetrovsk region’s countryside with the Bozhychi folk band to record folk songs. Despite the fact that they are now mostly performed by women, the Zaporozhian Cossack male singing tradition has not yet been lost, although most Cossacks moved to the Kuban region back in the 18th century.
“When researching the history of the Cossack songs in Dnipropetrovsk region, we have discovered the former Cossack settlement of Bohuslav near Pavlohrad. It should be said that songs sung in former serf villages and in former Cossack settlements differ. For example, the Bohuslav female singing is a faithful reflection of male group singing, as every voice sounds separately. Men are very individualistic, everyone wants to sing in his own way. Unfortunately, all women singers of Bohuslav are over 80, while youths do not want to continue the tradition,” the researcher noted.
The Bohuslavochka folk band has been singing folk songs of its native land for more than three decades. Its artistic director Yevhenia Khorolska told us that the women had remembered the old songs of their childhood and began to perform them on stage in the manner of their fathers and grandfathers. Unfortunately, the folk band has neither equipment to record authentic samples of live folk music, nor their own transport to get elderly women to a performance or a recording session at a professional studio. However, chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council Udod promises support to folk bands which preserve the Cossack singing tradition. He said the dossier for UNESCO application was already taking shape and had to be supported by a number of measures to promote and revive Cossack choirs in the country. It will be done over the next four years, the chairman noted. The campaign will start with a folklore expedition to collect material as well as developing an action plan and finding sponsors. Nearest rivals and contenders for the UNESCO recognition, Croatian and Corsican singing traditions, have strong government support, including funding. However, the Ukrainian cultural project’s proponents believe that the Cossack singing has a good shot at winning, and its recognition would have made a positive impact on the international image of Ukraine.