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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Eurovision triggers Ukraine folk revival
By Helen Fawkes
BBC, Carpathian Mountains, Western Ukraine

With her whip and skimpy leather outfit, Ruslana took Eurovision by storm.

It may have looked like a gimmick, but Ruslana's inspiration comes from an ancient mountain tribe who live in Western Ukraine.

Hutsul dance group
Natalya Hroholska and friends take a break from rehearsals
The Eurovision winner is influenced by the culture of the Hutsul people, who live in the Carpathian region.

Their traditions are based on paganism and so, during Soviet times, their culture was suppressed.

But as a result of Ruslana's victory, this music from the mountains is experiencing a new revival.

"We use mystical elements of Hutsul music. They give you energy and people all over Europe are feeling that vitality now," Ruslana says.

Pop music which celebrates traditional influences has got more fashionable here lately.

Wearing large halos of flowers in their hair and dancing barefoot in the mud, hundreds of youngsters from all over Ukraine flock to a music festival in Sheshory, a village in the Carpathians.


They watch bands perform by night, while by day they learn about Hutsul music and its cultural heritage.

Irina Tuse, a student from Kiev, is being shown how to use traditional wooden instruments.

Mykhailo Rybchuk and band
I think it would be better for the world to see the real authentic music, in its natural surroundings
Alexandra Marianirna
"This culture is really popular now and it's getting to be more and more widespread." says Irina. "Starting with Ruslana, it's now used a great deal here. Everyone in Ukraine and Europe knows this music."

Hutsul people have lived in Ukraine's Carpathian Mountains for centuries, but communist leaders discouraged their culture.

A few kilometres away from the music festival, Mykhailo Rybchuk and his band are now free to play whatever they want.

Before Ukraine's independence, they were only able to perform songs about Soviet leaders.

They are now concerned that the Hutsul culture is being distorted by its new popularity.

"Many people don't play the pure and correct Hutsul music now," Mykhailo says.

"It should be developed by musicians who are brought up here and then we will only have proper Hutsul music."


Alexandra Marianirna, a music expert from the Carpathians agrees. She is also concerned about they way the music is being used by pop stars.

Ruslana was inspired by the culture of the Hutsul
"I think it would be better for the world to see the real, authentic music in its natural surroundings. People should only use themes from this music after studying it seriously."

Wearing a traditional Carpathian outfit in the sweltering heat, Natalya sends a text to her friend during a break from rehearsals.

Natalya Hroholska is part of band of local students who perform Hutsul dances and their group is now in big demand.

Following the success of Ruslana, some of Ukraine's best selling musicians are also adopting parts of the Carpathian culture. Natalya supports what pop stars like Ruslana are doing.

"People are now changing it to make it a bit more modern and a bit less traditional. I think that it should be improved and perfected," says Natalya.

With its increased popularity, it could mean that next year, Ukraine attempts to repeat its Eurovision success with another Hutsul-inspired song.

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