Ukrainians love singing – there are around 200,000 Ukrainian folk songs! Clearly, they are really old, some dating back to 600 years ago and having many variations. Here you’ll find some of our favorites.
The vast majority of Ukrainian folk songs are either about love or about saying goodbye. But isn’t this what life is about?
Ти ж мене підманула (Ty zh mene pidmanula / You Tricked Me)
Okay, hands down, this one is the creme de la creme. Everyone knows it, everyone sings it, everyone likes it.
Ой, Марічко (Oi, Marichko / Oh Marichka)
Oi, Marichko might be the most upbeat wedding song. Originally it comes from Western Ukraine, so be ready to hear some dialects here. It kind of reminds me of Baby It’s Cold Outside, as this is a conversation between a boy who wants to spend time together and a girl who pretends to be shy (but not too shy 🙂).
Била мене мати (Byla mene maty / Mother Was Beating Me)
The name may sound horrifying to you but don’t be too scared, this is another energetic song about a girl in love. She is trying to come back quietly after a night out with her boyfriend. The last verse tells us that the mother, in fact, hears the daughter coming back but doesn’t do anything. She remembers her young years all too well.
Несе Галя воду (Nese Halia vodu / Halia is Carrying Water)
Seems like every Ukrainian has sung it at least once. This song is another conversation between young people in love; this time quite witty and humorous. It sounds more dramatic than it really is.
Чом ти не прийшов (Chom ty ne pryishov / Why Didn’t You Come)
This is a dreamy love song. A girl asks a boy why he missed their date. He says that the problem was his – you’ll never guess – younger sister. She hid the horse saddle so that her brother couldn’t go anywhere. Fortunately, his older sister found it and so he finally came.
Check out our translation of the Ukrainian national anthem!
Ніч яка місячна (Nich yaka misyachna / What a Moonlit Night)
This one is of the most gentle and tender Ukrainian folk songs. Although this one originally has an author! But it has become so popular that now it is regarded as a folk masterpiece. A boy invites a girl to go out into the night and spend time with him. He describes the beauty of nighttime and tells the girl how wonderful she is.
Ой, у вишневому саду (Oi, u vyshnevomu sadu / Oh, in the Cherry Orchard)
This is a touching story of a girl in love. She went out to see her beloved even though she wasn’t allowed to. The song is quite sad as the couple had to say goodbye.
Ой чий то кінь стоїть (Oi chyi to kin’ stoyit / Oh, Whose Horse is There)
It is a song about a kozak who fell in love with a girl but has to leave her and go to war. I love it as it is both sad and beautiful.
Пливе кача (Plyve Kacha / A Duck is Swimming)
It is a farewell song. The song has become popular after the requiem for Euromaidan heroes in 2014. A duck crossing waters is a symbol of death and going to the other side. It is a beautiful lament that speaks to the dangers and price of war.
The language is an example of the Transcarpathian dialect, so it may be a bit hard for Ukrainian learners. That said, if there is ever a case when you don’t have to understand the lyrics to get the meaning, this may be it.
Червона рута (Chervona ruta / Red Rue)
I’ll be honest with you: the author of this song is the well-known songwriter Volodymyr Ivasiuk. I’ve decided to add it to the folk songs list because everyone (and I mean everyone) in Ukraine knows it. There are even videos of whole stadiums singing it!
The Polyphony Project
If you long for more, you should check out The Polyphony Project. They went on a long road trip and collected the living musical folklore of Ukrainian villages. There are video clips, mp3 recordings, and lyrics of every song they could find. Moreover, they are currently working on the translations of the songs. If you’re a folk music enthusiast, you’ll love them.
Hopefully, now you love Ukrainian folk songs as much as we do. You can also find more songs in Ukrainian in our category Songs!
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