KRYACHKIVKA—Deep in rural Ukraine, a man from North Carolina has returned to his roots, moving to a village with a population of 500 in a bid to rekindle an almost lost tradition of Ukrainian folk music.

Yuriy Fedynsky, 43, born into the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States, moved to the country of his ancestors and set about resurrecting an almost lost tradition of lyrical ballads known as “dumas”.

The songs were popular in Ukraine from the 15th century, but the tradition almost died out under Soviet repression in the 1930s. The flame was kept alive in rural areas.

Fedynsky lives in Kryachkivka, a village in Poltava region 90 miles east of Kiev believed to have once been the home of a group of blind musicians who traveled the country barefoot.

Musician Yuriy Fedynsky.
Musician Yuriy Fedynsky makes a Ukrainian folk instrument called a torban at his workshop in the village of Kryachkivka, Ukraine Aug. 13, 2018. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

They sang to the accompaniment of the bandura, a string instrument reminiscent of the harp, and the kobza, an instrument similar to a modern day lute.

“To revive a tradition you have to find elements of the lost tradition,” said Fedynsky. He described this as difficult, with no kobza players alive and no surviving instruments to work from.

Yuriy Fedynsky makes a Ukrainian folk instrument.
A student of musician Yuriy Fedynsky makes a Ukrainian folk instrument called a torban at a workshop in the village of Kryachkivka, Ukraine Aug. 13, 2018. (Reuters/Valentyn Ogirenko)

“So to revive a tradition, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of research. You have to go to the museums, you have to make blueprints, you have to learn how to make instruments.

“You have to learn how to make good instruments and then you can start playing or at least learning to play,” he said.

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