Ukrainian Records: Trembita

Ukrainian Records: Trembita

Ukraine is a land of many record breaking phenomena. And one of them is trembita – a unique Carpathian wind instrument that is officially the longest in the world.

Don’t be confused when you come to the Carpathians – the name may belong to numerous things and institutions. Like Lviv-based guitar making factory ‘Trembita’. Or a few mountain hotels with the same name. The image of this instrument also decorates posters and logos of Hutsulshchyna, a picturesque region in the west of Ukraine. So, trembita may be everywhere here. But the real one is not that easy to find…

Where To Find It

The only sure chance is visiting a Hutsul or Boyko folk festival where guests are usually welcomed with trembita sounds. But it’s not the kind of a device you can find in more common place. Surely not on restaurant or other premises. Because trembitas are huge. And loud, too. So they are usually played outsides.

What is interesting, in the past this tube made of larch or spruce played a role of today’s telephone. When there was an important and urgent message to spread, trembita players climbed to the top of the nearest mountain, and performed special tunes. It sounds amazing, but trembita sound can reach as far as 10 kilometers. And that’s how messages were conveyed from mountain to mountain across all the region informing the locals about good and bad news, dangers and other events…

Trembita is also used by shepherds to gather sheep and dogs, and it is traditionally played at Christmas time. Another common use of the instrument is at funerals. But it’s never played on occasion of someone’s birth or wedding.

How To Make It

Today there are just a few masters making trembitas left in the Carpathians. And they usually do this not for the local shippers or amateurs, but mostly for professional musicians and concert bands. Creating a trembita is not that easy. It starts with choosing an appropriate wood, usually a tree that was struck by lightning. They say that the more it is damaged, the louder the trembita will be.

The tube that can reach 4 meters is made from a long straight piece of wood which is split in two in order to carve out the core. Trembita sounds louder when its walls are thin. Then the halves are once again joined together and wrapped in birch bark or osier rings. Before playing trembita’s hole must be filled with vodka or hot milk.

The trembita has no lateral openings and therefore gives the pure natural harmonic series of the open pipe. Its sound is unmistakable and unforgettable.

Trembita Today

Trembita is officially enlisted in The Guinness Book of Records as the longest instrument in the world. What is interesting the actual longest trembita (8,35 meters!) was made by a Polish folk musician Józef Chmiel located in Czech Republic.

Today trembita may be considered a symbol of not just the Carpathians but the whole Ukraine. In 200th it was shown on Eurovision Song Contest by the Ukrainian winner Ruslana during her performance of the song “Wild Dances”.

It is also used by recent popular Ukrainian band ONUKA.

Come to Ukraine and enjoy its uniqueness!

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