He’s one of the few musicians in Ukraine on a mission to break from the bandura’s epic history, which was preempted by kobza, a favorite instrument of Ukrainian Cossacks and blind musicians, or kobzari. Lyrical and heroic, their songs painted great historical moments and the hard life of the peasantry, similar to the poems by Ukraine’s greatest bard Taras Shevchenko, who is now also known as the Great Kobzar.
Shevchenko’s barely noticeable portrait at the bottom of Matviyiv’s instrument is perhaps the only link between the bandura’s rich legacy and its jazzy present. Dressed in plain jeans and a T-shirt instead of traditional vyshyvanka during his concerts, Matviyiv does have some folk songs in his repertoire but even they sound differently, sometimes like Spanish flamenco.
“Only recently people began to understand that with bandura it is possible to play a variety of genres,” says Matviyiv sitting in a cafe in downtown Kyiv. The young musician from Odesa claims that he invented 16 new ways of playing bandura and can play new age style, jazz and blues. Television talent shows helped him to popularize his skills.