The Haydamaky began their career in 1991 shortly after Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union. At that time the band was known as Aktus and played mostly local gigs in the underground Kyiv (Kiev) music scene. In the absence of a fertile popular local music scene Aktus turned to the sounds of reggae, ska and punk music for a fresh alternative.
The group was also attracted to the political effect that these genres had on their society. The idea that through music significant social change is possible gave greater purpose to the performance of such musical styles. The discovery of these musical genres later became the key to their own realization of a specifically Ukrainian musical style. Haydamaky’s hope is to forge an inherently Ukrainian popular music style which looks back on its own heritage and traditions as a source for inspiration.
With the addition of sopilka-vocalist Olexandr Yarmola and accordionist Ivan Lenko, both well-known and respected in folk circles the band increasingly incorporated elements of Ukrainian folk music into their compositions.
Since the early 1990s Aktus had engaged in constant touring of Europe. Unlike most popular Ukrainian music groups who propagate Soviet style estrada or copies of Western and American styles Aktus sought to introduce elements of Ukrainian folk music through a cross-cultural mix including reggae and ska.
As of early 2003 the group was discovered in Kyiv (Kiev) by EMI International Records out of London England and was immediately signed contractually to their label. At that time the band realized it was time to establish an even firmer tie to their own culture and changed their name to Haydamaky in honor of the historical Haydamaky rebellion/revolution which took place in Ukraine in the 18th century. This rebellion was a reaction of Ukrainian peasants and serfs against repressive foreign occupation.
The band’s second album is Boguslav. This time the group searched even deeper into Ukrainian folk music for material ideas and textures. The ensemble invited violinist Vasyl Hekker perhaps the foremost authority on authentic Ukrainian folk violin style to collaborate on the project. Also bandurist-guitarist Jurij Fedynskyj of New York (USA) relocated to Kyiv to join the ensemble. Since the recording of the first album and till now Haydamaky collaborated with almost every well known Ukrainian folk music musician of older generations.
The music of Haydamaky is inspired by ethnic musics from various regions of Ukraine such as Polissya Bukovyna and Zakarpathia which includes the Gypsy and Jewish tradition along with pure Ukrainian. Other influences include the punk music of the early Pogues and by the reggae of such bands like Burning Spear and Black Uhuru.
The Haydamaky at present are:
Olexandr Jarmola – vocal sopilka
Ivan Leno – accordion zimbaly keyboards
Ruslan Trochinskyj – trombone
Olexandr Dem-anenko – guitars mandolin
Wolodymyr Sherstiuk – bass drymba
Ruslan Ovras – drums percussion
Eugen Goryslawskyj – trumpet
Wlad Grymalskyj – sound engineer live dub mixing
Natalka Sebina – vocals
Maria Firsowa – vocals
Jurij Fedynskyj – bandura
Wasyl Gecker – violin
No More Peace (2013)