Folk Song and Dance

Lemkos have been characterized as singing all the time -- singing while they work, and having songs for both ceremonies and for play.109 Therefore it is not surprising that the number of Lemko folk songs is varied and vast. However, it is usually only women who sing while working. A particular tradition is that when a girl starts to sing, another girl joins in, then many others, until the song is heard over the whole village. Men seldom sing while working; usually only at festivities.110 Most of the songs are of native origin, especially the wedding and humorous songs. The melodies of the native Lemko songs show a remarkable variety of forms, rich ornamentation, and a wide rhythmic range.111 Some are variants of widely known Ukrainian songs, and others are of eastern Slovak origin with dialectal changes.

An example of the latter is the lyrics and music of "rjadovyj", the "bridal dance." The Slovak and Lemko melodies are extremely similar, by variation of the lyrics is more evident.


Radovy (Eastern Slovak)

Nasa mlada recec (2)

Nechcela jejs pere ce. (2)

Nasa mlada jak babka(2)

Za cepila ju svatka (2)

Jak se Pan Boh raduje (2)

Ket starosta tancuje.(2)

A ket svatka ne moze (2)

Ta jej druzhba pomoze (2)

Rjadovyj (Lemko)

Nasha mlada jak sosna (2)

Lem pre tebe vyrosla. (2)

Vozmi ty ko sobi(2)

A myluj ju do smerty. (2)

Nja sja Pan Boh raduje(2)

Mlada z mladym tancuje. (2)

Na taniri shcherbyna (2)

Naj daruje rodyna (2)

Our young bride is like the sun

She was raised only for you

Come close to her

And cherish her till death.

Let the Lord God rejoice

The bride is dancing with the groom

The gift is on the plate

Let the family donate.

Many of the songs sung while dancing come from the Presov Region (either of Rusyn or Slovak origin), and much of the dance music is of Hungarian origin.112 The most common Lemko folk dances are the chardash (similar to the Hungarian csardas) and polka, but there are many types of specialized girls' dances (such as the karichka variety of circle dances, commonly accompanied by singing) and boys' or mens' dances (such as "shepherd's dance," axe dances, and the Hungarian verbunk).

The theme of Lemko folk songs of recent origin is frequently the mountains, the Lemko Region itself, and the tremendous psychological loss the people suffered when they were forced from their land. The most well known example of this type is the following.

Oj vershe (O my mountain)


Oj vershe, mij vershe,

Mij zelenyj vershe.

Juzh mi tak ne bude, (2)

Jak mi bylo pershe.

Bo pershe mi bylo,

Barz dobri mi bylo,

Od svojej mamychky, (2)

Ne chodyty bylo.

O mountain, my mountain

My green mountain.

It will never be to me

As it was before.

For as it seemed to me before,

It was so good to me

From my mother's time

It was not to be any longer.

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