August 15, 2022

A kobzar (Ukrainian: кобзар; pl. kobzars or kobzari, Ukrainian: кобзарі, Romanian: cobzar, pl. cobzari) is a traveling bard in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania, who sings while accompanying himself with the kobza or cobza.

Kobzari tradition and guilds

The tradition of kobzari is predominant in the 19th century in the south-west of the Russian Empire (current Ukraine and Moldavia), in Romania and in the east of Austria-Hungary. The term kobzar/cobzar literally means kobza/cobza player. This traditional stringed instrument is from the lute family. In a broader sense, a kobzar is an artist whose work is similar to the tradition of kobzari, attested in the Balkans and in present-day Belarus, Poland, Ukraine since at least the 16th century, especially in baptism celebrations , marriage, or given by Cossack boyars and hetmans. It seems that the kobzari tradition derives from the kobyz players who arrived in these countries with the Polovtses (which explains their presence as far away as Hungary). The kobzari accompany their song by playing the kobza, the bandura or the lyre. Their repertoire consists of “para-liturgical” psalms and “kanty” (from Romanian cânt, “song”); Duma (Ukrainian: дума, plural dumy) is an epic song. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the decline of the Polish, Russian and Romanian aristocracies, who often maintained their own kobzari year-round, also marked a decline in the status of the latter, who now played in the fairs and markets, or even resort to begging; at that time, kobzari were often blind. In the 19th century, there were several styles of kobzari, the differences of which lie in the repertoire and the way of playing: the Polish-Belarusian style in the north, the Romanian-Moldavian, Hungarian and Balkan style in the south, and three Ukrainian styles in the south. is: the style of Chernihiv, the style of Poltava and that of Slobodian Ukraine. Famous Ukrainian kobzari include Ostap Veressai or Petro Drevchenko. Kobzari songs were notably collected in Ukraine by Mykola Lyssenko at the end of the 19th century and in Romania and Moldavia by Constantin Brăiloiu in the first half of the 20th century. The kobzari/cobzari organized themselves into groups called in Romanian cete and in Ukrainian: цехі tsekhi; these groups each linked to a particular parish of the Orthodox Church were, in each region (Belarus, Poland, Transylvania, Wallachia, Moldavia, different regions of Ukraine…), affiliated with guilds or fraternities. For a period of three years the future kobzar was an apprentice (in Romanian ucenic, in Ukrainian: учень outchen), then he took an exam to first become a journeyman (in Romanian calfă, in Ukrainian: супутник soupoutnik). Subsequent progress and the number of pieces composed ended up making them masters (in Romanian maistru, in Ukrainian: майстер maister). These groups had an icon as their emblem, and devoted part of their earnings to adorning their affiliated church. However, the high clergy of the Orthodox Church will sometimes be reluctant or even hostile to the kobzari, because their music, secular and non-liturgical, was reputed among certain popes (perhaps the least charismatic) to "dissuade the faithful from piety". In addition, there were also cete/tsekhi of Jewish kobzari playing pieces close to the klezmer style.

Communist period

In the USSR, the communist state takes control of all social and cultural spheres, and cannot tolerate independent organizations such as kobzari guilds. A few find work in culture houses or restaurants, but their music itself must