The most simple and earliest forms of instrumental folk music include signals used in various occupations and in ceremony. The inhabitants of the Carpathian mountains used the trembita in its various forms to inform others about the birth or death of a villager, to signal the return of shepherds back from mountain pastures and for other important events.
The traditional signals are territorial, and form an intricate method of communication. Many of these signals have been recorded, particularly signals used by shepherds to note the time to arise, to go to bed, to do the midday milking or to warn about the proximity thiefs. Ceremonial signals are typically functional in origin. Violin melodies are played at various parts of a wedding ceremony such as the handing over of the bride, the weaving of the wedding towels around the arms of the newly weds, and the beginning of the wedding banquet.
At funeral services special motifs were played to bid farewell to the departed soul. Song forms are usually based on the melodic and harmonic basis of the songs accompanied. Some forms require special accompaniment forms such as in the dumy accompanied by the bandura, kobza or lira. Dance music is an integral part of the instrumental music repertoire.
In contrast with Ukrainian folksongs, rich in melodies and varied in rhythmical structures, the folk dances are mostly in duple time, and based on symmetrical musical periods. The principal dances are closely related musically and only different accents establish their choreographical characteristics. Dances were usually incorporated into rituals such as the wedding, and holidays. The Ukrainians have many dances that imitate daily life and works such as: Kozak, Kysil, Buhaj, Poltavka, Dudochka, Metelytsia, Hajduk, Chaban, and many others. The most prominent Ukrainian folk dances are:
The title literally means snowstorm dance. Usually the Metelytsia is in a minor key in 2/4 time. This dance abounds in swift choreographed figures of a spinning nature, symbolizing a snowstorm. The dance retains much of its Khorovod character, the ancient form of communal or group dancing and choral sining with many figures in a circle form. In the past the Metelytsia was danced to only choral accompaniment. Prelevant in the Eastern half of Ukraine.
The Hopak is one of the most popular dances originally only for men in which they could show off their prowess, heroism and manliness. Often during the Hopak a series of spectacular solos by several dancers generates an exciting air of competition. This dance incorporates many acrobatic movements, usually in a major key and a fast tempo. Variants of the Hopak include the Zaporozetz, Tropak. Hopak melodies may vary in mood but are generally in the major mode. Some Hopak melodies are performed entirely without singing, and may be heard without any dancing at all.
The title of this dance is derived from the word Kozak, and its origins can be traced to the popular Christmas plays of the late 16th and early 17th century. These plays, called Vertep, consisted of two parts, the first dramatizing the birth of Christ, and the second a joyful celebration centred around the Kozaks from the Zaporozhian region, who sang, played their bandura, and danced. This dance became known as the vertepnyj Kozachok and displayed all the characteristics of the fiery Kozak temperment.
The Kozachok differed from the Hopak in several spects. It begins with a slow lyrical introduction, developing in the dance proper an extremely fast tempo. In the past the Kozachok was performed by a single male dancer or a couple. Now very often it is a group dance with girls taking the principal role. Variants of the Kozachok include the Molodychka, Kysil, Shchyhol, Buhaj, Dudochka, Horlytsia, Choboty, Kosari, Pereyaslavka, Bychok, Buryma, Zubok, Kateryna, Mykyta, Chabarashka and the Pleskach.
The Kolomyjka has preserved a triplicity of independent forms: song, instrumental piece and dance. The Kolomyjka is danced with choral and instrumental support. Originally it was a Western Ukrainian dance form with its origins in the Carpathians. The lyrics vary greatly, depending on the locality, and are usually in the form of short couplets reflecting everyday activity, faithful musical sketches of typical daily occurances. Kolomyjkas have a wide melodic range, intricate syncopated rhythms, and a variety of melisms. Variants of the Kolomyjka include the Uvyvanetz, Bukovynka, and Arkan.
The Hutsulka and Verkhovynka
The Hutzulka and Verkhovynka from Western Ukraine are musical variants of the Kolomyjka, however they differ in that they usually include a slow lyrical introduction in 6/8 or 3/4 time followed by the typical Kolomyjka.