Saturday, 12 September 2015
Oliver: The Ukranians - Hopak (28 December 1991)
When I reviewed The Wedding Present's version of the Orange Juice song, Felicity, I was a bit dismissive about The Ukranians offshoot. To me, it seemed like they were trying too hard to show how kerr-azy they were. But in music, as in life, it pays to do a little research. The Wedding Present's then guitarist, Peter Solowka, who has a Ukranian father used to play this song to entertain his friends. It was recorded for the Wedding Present's November 1986 session and provoked such a strong reaction that the group embarked on a further three sessions devoted entirely to Ukranian music between 1987-89. Some of these sessions are commercially available. Somehow, knowing that one of the band was honouring his heritage makes the endeavour seem a lot less insultingly frivolous.
By the early 90s, tensions in The Wedding Present, saw Solowka leave and form his own group dedicated to performing compositions that respected the spirit of the music of Ukraine, while imbuing it with an indie/punk sound. They are still going today, though it seems that they have recently started to focus more on providing Ukranian flavoured versions of Western pop music.
Hopak is an old Ukranian folk dance. The Ukranians version of it appears to be based on one part of the dance. Reading about it, I wish I'd known about it in advance of my wedding as it would have made a nice counterpoint to the Ceildh music we had the day after the service. The Ukranians version is a real floor filler; a Zorba the Greek for the slacker generation.
We would have been storming this a fortnight ago in South Kerry.
Videos courtesy of Miik004 (Ukranians) and welcome2ukraine (dance).