Music of Russia


Russia is a large and extremely culturally diverse country, with dozens of ethnic groups, each with their own forms of folk music. During the period of Soviet domination, music was highly scrutinized and kept within certain boundaries of content and innovation. After the fall of the USSR, western-style rock and pop music became the most popular musical forms in Russia.

Folk music

Archeology and direct evidence (such as the frescoes at the Sophia Cathedral in Kiev) show a variety of musical instruments in ancient Russia. Authentic folk instruments include the livenka (accordion) and woodwinds like zhaleika, svirel and kugikli, as well as numerous percussion instruments: buben, bubenci, kokshnik, korobochka, lozkhi, rubel, treschetka, vertushka and zvonchalka.

Chastushkas are a kind of Russian folk song with a long history. They are typically rapped, and are humorous or satiric.

Regional folk music

Armenia. Duduk is likely the best-known feature of Armenian music, due to the popularity of Djivan Gasparyan. Though Armenia is an independent country, there are numerous ethnic Armenians in Russia itself. Christian music is very important to these people, especially melismatic chanting written in khaz notation. In addition to duduk, instruments like the kanon, oud, shawm, tar and davul are popular.

Bashkir. The first major study of Bashkir music appeared in 1897, when ethnographer Rybakov S.G. wrote Music and Songs of the Ural's Muslims and Studies of Their Way of Life. Later, Lebedinskiy L.N. collected numerous folk songs in Bashkortostan beginning in 1930. The 1968 foundation of the Ufa State Institute of Arts sponsored research in the field. The kurai is the most important instrument in the Bashkir ensemble

Belarus. Pesniary was the best known Belarusian band in the Soviet times and was very popular in USSR for several decades, especially in early 80's.

Buryat. The Buryats of the far east is known for distinctive folk music which uses the two-stringed horsehead fiddle, or morin khur. The style has no polyphony and has little melodic innovation. Narrative structures are very common, many of them long epics which claim to be the last song of a famous hero, such as in the Last Song of Rinchin Dorzhin. Modern Buryat musicians include the band Uragsha, which uniquely combines Siberian and Russian language lyrics with rock and Buryat folk songs.

Chechnya. Chechnya best-known folk tradition is the polyphonic choir, similar to traditions in neighboring nations of the Caucasus, especially the Georgians. Alongside the Chechen rebellion of the 1990s came a resurgence in Chechen national identity, of which music is a major part. People like Said Khachukayev became prominent promoting Chechen music. The Chechen national anthem is said to be "Death or Freedom", an ancient song of uncertain origin.

Siberia. Shamanism remains an important cultural practice of the ethnic groups of Siberia and Sakhalin, where several dozen groups live. The Yakuts are the largest, and are known for their olonkho songs and the khomus, a Jew's harp.

Tatarstan. Tatar folk music have rhythmic peculiarities and pentatonic intonation in common with nations of the Volga area, who are ethnically Finno-Ugric and Turkic. Singing girls, renowned for their subtlety and grace, are a prominent component of Tatar folk music. Instruments include the kubyz (violin), kurai (flute) and talianka (accordion).

Tuva. Tuvan throat singing, or xoomii, is famous world-wide, primarily for its novelty. The style is highly unusual and foreign to most listeners, who typically find it inaccessible and amelodic. In throat singing, the natural harmonic resonances of the lips and mouth are tuned to select certain overtones. The style was first recorded by Ted Levin, who helped catalogue a number of different styles. These are include borbannadir (which is compared to the sound of a flowing river), sygyt (similar to whistling), xoomii, chylandyk (likened to chirping crickets) and ezengileer (like a horses trotting). Of particular international fame is the group Huun-Huur-Tu.

Ukraine. Though Ukraine is now an independent country, Ukrainians constitute the second-largest minority in Russia. The bandura is the most important and distinctive instrument of the Ukrainian folk tradition, and was utilized by the famous 15th century kobzars, a kind of wandering performing who composed dumy, or folk epics.




  • (cordofoni)

  • (aerofoni) zhaleika, svirel and kugikli,

  • (ancia libera) livenka (accordion)

  • (membranofoni) buben, bubenci, kokshnik, korobochka, lozkhi, rubel, treschetka, vertushka and zvonchalka.

  • (idiofoni)

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