by Tim Young
From SIF SATELLITE 53, Spring 1999
Recently, the beautiful folk music of Ukraine came to Japan-and for
a good cause.
Nineteen-year-old Natasha Gudziy, whose voice shows a maturity beyond
her years, did a series of charity concerts this spring in Tokyo and
other major Japanese cities for the Chernobyl Children's Fund. There's
no question as to why this is her chosen charity: she herself was
exposed to radiation from the 1986 nuclear accident.
Gudziy was born February 4, 1980, in the Ukranian city of Dnipropetrovs'k,
according to publicity released by the Chernobyl Children's Fund.
In 1984, she moved with her family to Pripyat, a town only 3.5 km
from the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. They were exposed to radiation
when the reactor exploded two years later, and fled to Kiev.
In 1988 she entered music school, in addition to her general schooling,
and specialized in the bandura, a Ukranian folk instrument similar
to the harp. Since 1993, she has been a member of a folk music group,
Chervona Karina, formed to benefit children who are victims of Chernobyl.
As it became clear she had a beautiful voice, she began singing in
groups, and then as a soloist, giving concerts in Ukraine and around
the world. This was her third visit to Japan.
As far as I could recall, I had never heard of, let alone heard,
the bandura. This instrument dates back to the early days of Ukrainian
nationhood; the earliest record of its existence dates from the 6th
century. While its sound reminds me of the harp (or of the Japanese
koto), its portability made it as popular as the lute was in Western
Europe in the middle ages.
While the instrument was what attracted me to the concert -- and
it wasn't a disappointment -- what really enchanted me was Gudziy's
voice. She sang in a rich, haunting soprano that filled the small
Japanese church; she used a microphone, but it felt to me like she
didn't need one. It was her own natural power that amplified her voice.
She sang several pieces with piano accompaniment, then changed to
traditional Ukranian dress and performed on the bandura.
I would have loved to have spoken with her and asked her questions
about the bandura, about her country, about her Chernobyl experience,
but when I tried to speak to her after the show, I found that she
only spoke Ukranian (and a few memorized Japanese phrases). But I
will always remember her gorgeous voice, and this wonderful introduction
to the bandura.
Reference: Ukranian Bandurist
Chorus web site.
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