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Ukraine’s top band brings eclectic folk-rock to Saskatoon

By in Culture

Arts Writer

Arguably Ukraine’s best rock group, Haydamaky make Saskatoon the third stop on their North American debut tour on Sept. 24 at Louis’ Pub.

The band has toured Europe extensively, headlining festivals in Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. The Ukranian band is now ready to make its mark in Canada.


Haydamaky have been performing for nearly two decades but only came into their own a decade ago.

The band plays a unique mixture of Ukrainian instruments and folk songs within modern rock arrangements that take influence from reggae, British ska and early Irish punk, Haydamaky creates a sound that is harmoniously traditional and modern.

The band plays a mix of positive, upbeat, faster, more rock influenced music, with slower, emotional songs that rely more on Ukrainian folk instrumentals. Whether fast or slow, all Haydamaky songs have something uniquely Ukrainian, whether a cover of a traditional folk song or an original song created in a folk style.

Most often, their music contains positive messages or social commentary.

In fact, it was the band’s desire for social change in Ukraine that drew them to influences where music is the heart of social revolution. One influence was the early Irish punk rock of Shane McGowan and The Pogues, a band that used Irish instruments in their contemporary music.

Another inspiration is reggae’s message of love, self-reliance and unity and these messages reach Ukraine through Haydamaky’s music.

While drawing on cross-cultural influences, Haydamaky’s sound remains unmistakably Ukrainian in their use of traditional instruments, such as sopilka (wooden recorder-like flute), bandura (20-60 metal stringed large lute somewhat comparable to a sitar), tsymbaly (Ukrainian hammered dulcimer) and a traditional Bukovynian wedding band brass section that at times echoes reggae, ska and Gypsy/Roma music. Haydamaky weaves all these sounds together to create their absolutely unique, energetic ska-rock, Ukrainian cabaret style.

The upcoming Haydamaky show at Louis’ marks the first Ukranian rock concert in Saskatoon since the mid ’80s. The concert is sponsored by the University of Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian Student Association, as part of their ongoing efforts to highlight progressive and experimental Ukrainian music in the province.


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