Women's Bandura Ensemble

of north America

For centuries, the bandura’s song has been the voice and soul of Ukraine, its strings echoing the nation’s turbulent history. The bandura and its predecessor, the fretted “kobza”, were instruments of “kobzari”, the blind minstrels that wandered the countryside to spread news, tell stories and entertain the villagers. After years of persecution by Soviet Authorities and cultural integration efforts, the bandura survived, and is now the 65-stringed instrument you see today.

The Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America (WBENA) brings together 24 of the most talented and creative female bandura-players on the continent to share their music with a wide audience. This large Ensemble breaks new ground in Canada and the United States as a platform for women to showcase their abilities and continue their musical development. The members, ages 16 and up, encompass various bandura and vocal styles. Several are graduates of formal music academies; others are young women that began playing in local groups or at summer bandura camps and have continued developing as musicians.

Every woman in the ensemble is driven by its passion for the bandura and the Ukrainian musical tradition, maintaining important cultural motifs while also expanding the direction of bandura as an instrument.

 Like many traditions are taught around the world, the two accomplished conductors, Oksana Rodak and Oksana Zelinska, inherited their devotion to bandura from their mothers. Their individual styles and musical interpretations inspire the Ensemble to share repertoire ideas, techniques and add signature touches to their programs. Audiences have marveled at the sound and precision of the instruments combined with the youthful voices that harmonize and intertwine with the clear tones of the strings. Balancing their programs with traditional Ukrainian folk songs, contemporary arrangements, non-Ukrainian works and the additions of drum and violin, the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America will leave you uplifted and wanting to hear more!