The first ethnic Ukrainians came to Chicago in 1882, and it wasn’t long before there were enough of them to party.
Every weekend there would be a wedding or dance party, and musicians found easy work in what would become one of the most populous Ukrainian cities in America.
Chicago’s Ukranian musicians played a genre known as “Zabava music,” deeply rooted in Ukrainian folk music, with some Western Europian, Canadian and Appalachian influences. The genre persisted for decades, but by the time the Soviet Union annexed Ukraine, it was up to the diaspora to keep Ukrainian music alive.
Then, in the 1970s, Ukrainian music experienced a “Beatles movement,” according to Bohdan Krutiak, lead guitarist of a band called Promin, which was central to a generation of Chicago bands which revolutionized Zabava music.
The old Polkas and Waltzes which were once played by 20-piece orchestras were covered with 4-piece bands. Zabava music began to sound more like rock and other American music of the era.
And with the Iron Curtain still up, Ukrainians around the world turned to Chicago for the most innovative Ukrainian music in a legacy that still persists to today. Worldview’s Julian Hayda grew up in the thick of Chicago’s Ukrainian community and he joins us to share.