Odessa, Yiddish Pearl of the Sea

Odessa, Yiddish Pearl of the Sea

I finally visited Odessa this summer after nearly three years in Ukraine.  Due to the bulwark of Communist nostalgia known as the “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” through which trains have been denied passage since 1990, the journey from Chernivtsi to Odessa requires making a huge 16-hour circle north to Lviv then east to Ternopil and south through Vinnitsia into the Odessa region. Ultimately, Odessa was worth the trip. The city has a laid back, jocund flair that Kyiv lacks– perhaps it’s…

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Interview with Cimbalom player Volodymyr Korolenko of “Hudaki”

Interview with Cimbalom player Volodymyr Korolenko of “Hudaki”

In July of 2009, I interviewed* Volodymyr Korolenko, an Uzhgorod-based cimbalom and nai player best known for his work with Transcarpathian folk group “Hudaki,” about his experience learning to play the cimbalom.  Volodya is an exceedingly talented and humble musician, and has been a great resource for me since I began learning the cimbalom.  I highly recommend his “Hudatska Taistra” album as well as all of the “Hudaki” albums (more about Hudaki at the end of this article). Why did…

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Маньо в Нью Йорку! – Tyachiv’s “Manyo” Family Band Visit New York City

Маньо в Нью Йорку! – Tyachiv’s “Manyo” Family Band Visit New York City

Thus, the band is a unique musical time capsule– a connection to Transcarpathia’s more ethnically-diverse past. The band’s name (and much of their repertoire) stems from its founder and patriarch, Yuriy Yurovych Cherniavets, a violinist born in 1920 on the Romanian side of the Tysa River in the village of Little Tyachiv (Малий Тячів). … In this recording, Yura sings and plays the plyonka (плёнка/плівка = “film”), a circular piece of rigid, thin plastic packaging that is placed between the lower lip and front teeth, and pressed against the top lip to create a buzzing sound when blown.

Cimbalom tuning, Soviet style

Cimbalom tuning, Soviet style

While the small Ukrainian tsymbaly is the dulcimer of choice in the Hutsul villages of the Carpathians, music educators throughout the former Soviet Union prefer the Hungarian system (aka the Shunda).  There were even factories producing Hungarian-system concert cimbaloms in Chernihiv and Kamyanets-Podilskiy, Ukraine and Kishinev, Moldova from the 1960s until the late 1980s. Every cimbalom player seems to have his or her own preferred method of tuning the instrument.  Some tune by octave starting from c1, some tune the…

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Alushta, Crimea – Ukraine’s Coney Island

Alushta, Crimea – Ukraine’s Coney Island

With the fall semester rapidly approaching, my girlfriend and I had one last opportunity to visit Crimea before the summer weather subsided and our work began.  Unfortunately, due to the long train ride (about 30 hours) from western Ukraine to Crimea via Kyiv, it worked out so that we only had two full days there, so we focused on relaxing on the beach rather than visiting museums and famous sites.  Still, there proved to be plenty of weird and exotic…

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“New RTF File Here” Toolbar Script for OSX

“New RTF File Here” Toolbar Script for OSX

I use a lot of RTF (Rich Text Format) files in Apple’s “TextEdit” application because they allow bold, italic and underlined text, as well as cyrillic text encodings, and they load a lot quicker than MS Word documents.  I recently found an AppleScript for OSX that creates a new text file in the current window, and modified it to create an RTF file instead. To install it, just download the compiled script and place it in /Applications or wherever you…

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How-to: Correct Ukrainian Cyrillic ID3 tags in iTunes

How-to: Correct Ukrainian Cyrillic ID3 tags in iTunes

Mac users: have you ever added Ukrainian MP3s to your iTunes playlist and found the Cyrillic ID3 tags (Artist, Title, etc.) jumbled? I have been dealing with this problem for years, and the best solution out there seems to be an add-on script for iTunes by Andrei Popov called Convert Cyrillics.  Unfortunately, this script doesn’t convert the Ukrainian letters “і”, “є”, “ї”, or “ґ”.  I finally got around to modifying this script myself, and here is the result: ConvertUkrainian Keep…

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