Pain, loss, grief and fear - all these experiences and emotions can traumatize people in war zones. History has already shown that music can be a great help in providing comfort and hope in such difficult times. As early as World War I, for example, there were numerous singing groups and choirs on the front lines, as well as among prisoners in concentration camps, to express pain, to offer resistance and to preserve hope for peace.
Even in times of current wars, music continues to be a faithful companion of people. In Syria, there are numerous musicians who, despite the war, continue to give concerts and bring people together with their music. In this way, they set an example and show that although violence and war prevail in a country, togetherness is nevertheless possible, and even essential for survival.
Folk songs have a special significance in war situations. With their textual basis, they serve as an expression of solidarity, hope and togetherness and contribute to people feeling connected through singing together and not being left alone in their situation. In Ukraine, folk songs have a long tradition and still play an important role today. In the conflict with Russia and the violent clashes in the east of the country, the songs, which are often about love, passion and homeland, are given a new meaning and are now associated with the experiences of war. Many lyrics express the grief and suffering of people affected by the violence and offer comfort and hope. Other songs tell of the need to stand together and fight for a better future.
A particularly well-known Ukrainian folk song that is still often sung today, especially in difficult times, is "Щедрик" ("Shdchedryk" | "generous") by Mykola Leontovych (edition by ipipapa). In the context of the folk song, the idea is that the coming holidays will be "generous" in joy, happiness and blessings. The song tells of a lapwing that comes at Christmas to bring peace and prosperity. It is a symbol of hope for a better future and is often sung by choirs - but mostly in the well-known English version "Carol of the Bells". The song is also well known in other countries and is always played during the Christmas season. It shows how music, especially folk songs, can preserve the cultural identity and heritage of a country threatened by war and violence. Also, songs like "Вийди, вийди, Іванку" ("vidi vidi, Ivanko" | "Oh, come out, Ivanko"), "Ой ходить сон коло вікон" ("Oi hodit son podle okon" | "Oh, a dream passes by the window"), which was to inspire George Gershwin's aria "Summertime" in the opera "Porgy and Bess", and the Ukrainian national anthem "Ще не вмерла Україна" ("Shche ne vmerla Ukrajina" | "Ukraine has not died yet") are sung by many Ukrainians in their hopeless situation of war and encourage them to continue fighting for a just world in peace.
But: Why should people from other countries also sing such folk songs as those of Ukrainians? The reason lies in the universal meaning of the song lyrics. The themes of love, homeland and togetherness are central in many cultures and can be expressed in other languages and traditions as well. Furthermore, it is particularly relevant that in times of war, solidarity can be expressed through the singing of these songs.
However, the interpretation of such folk songs often presents difficulties because the writing in the respective language often cannot be read in the sounds of one's native language. To solve this problem, one can learn the correct pronunciation with the help of a phonetic transcription, e.g. the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This makes authentic interpretation possible in the first place. And it is not even necessary to learn the language, even though one naturally wants to know about the content of the song lyrics.
Folk songs are therefore an important part of cultural identity and can help to strengthen the community and give them hope in difficult times such as war. By learning and singing the songs of other cultures, we can express our connection with other people and cultures and thus contribute to a more peaceful world.