The importance of song through intergenerational traditions

By Aleksa Gobosz

Там, під Львівським замком старий дуб стояв, А під тим дубочком партизан лежав. 

Did you, by any chance, start humming the song? Perhaps had glimpses of you and your fellow пластуни or сумівці singing by the fire? The song ‘Там, під Львівським замком старий дуб стояв’, which you can listen to here, has the power to unite dozens of Ukrainians all around the world.

Back in pre-pandemic days, it was very common for my friends and me to meet up in huge groups at Hawkestone in Oro-Medonte, Ont. every weekend and sing every single Ukrainian song that we could think of. We would have books, cell phone apps as well as our Ukrainian spivnyks, and we’d sing until we saw the sun come up.

There’s something special about the traditional Ukrainian songs that we sing. Most of our songs hold a glimpse of Ukrainian history amongst each lyric. They explain one’s daily life, the wars, the experiences of kozaks and even what kind of tree стояв під Львівським замком.

You must be thinking…Where is Aleksa going with this?

History was first passed down orally through stories, songs and person-to-person interactions. Now, we write words down and keep our songs saved on Spotify. Our ancestors, on the other hand, did not have this option; therefore, it is crucial our generation continues to sing these songs and pass down this tradition of singing Ukrainian songs.

Singing traditional songs is an easy way of keeping our Ukrainian pride alive. A country’s anthem, as well as its national songs, represent the history, beliefs and traditions of its people. Patriotic songs are known to boost a community’s morale, reunite a nation and remind an individual of their rich heritage. This is why our generation must continue singing these songs and passing down each and every melody to our future children, пластуни and сумівці. Singing is how we all forget our differences and unite as one family with the goal of singing the songs our families sang hundreds of years ago.   

And as previously mentioned, singing Ukrainian songs was the only way our ancestors were able to remember our history and experiences. Perhaps one day our great-great-great-grandchildren will be singing about the pandemic we experienced and how toilet paper was sold out in every store. Perhaps you can be the one to write the song that everyone will be singing in 130 years!

Moving on, the next time you have an opportunity to sing traditional Ukrainian songs with your friends, TAKE IT! Learn new songs, learn new melodies, learn about the experiences our ancestors had. It’s essential that we pass down the tradition of singing народні, купальські, великодні і весільні пісні because if we don’t sing them, who will?