The Music of Varushka

Style summary

Varushkan music is rich and full-bodied, following a long tradition of being used to keep both the cold and the horrors outside at bay. Choral singing, accordions, violins and hurdy-gurdies all find their place with the Varushkan love of discords resolving into rich harmony; the normally stoic people find an outlet for grief, love and joy in their music that they would find hard to express in any other way. A vein of melancholy runs through their music - minor keys are more common than major.

Varushka draws on the real world traditions of Eastern European and Balkan music, in particular Georgian, Bulgarian and Russian songs and Yiddish or klezmer instrumental music.

Commonly known songs

A musical tradition

Toasting is very common in Varushkan culture. Pretty much every major event - weddings, funerals, births, victories, defeats, change of leadership, ceremonies of adulthood - will lead to both spoken and sung toasts. A typical Varushkan toasting song has very few words: the old-fashioned songs use "mravalzhamier" meaning 'good health' although others are sung to similar sentiments, or sometimes the name of the person being toasted or simply "Varushka!". Toasting Songs often start slowly and speed up and can be sung in full harmony or led by one singer. Some examples: Mravalzhamiers and Raise up your glass to Varushka, or use Here's A Health to the Company which is a drinking song known throughout the Empire.

Many Varushkan towns and villages employ a Stzena, a band of musicians who perform at civic functions, local events and public ceremonies. Historically, these were sentries who kept night vigils and raised the alarm in case of attack from monster, barbarians and raiders by blowing on trumpets and beating drums. As the wardens grew in strength and reach, the Stzena turned their skills to music and served their community in a different way, but some still take their secondary role as watchmen very seriously.

One for the kids

Further examples

Warding Songs

Funeral Songs

Drinking Songs

War Songs

Other Songs & Poems (unsorted)

Instrumentation and tunes

Violins, accordions, reeded woodwind, hammered dulcimer if you've got one! Music is drawn from Eastern European gypsy music, klezmer, or any fast tunes written in a klezmer scale. More info on klezmer scales.

Varushkan rhythms - and how to do them

Other performance traditions

  • Dancing, set dances like ceilidh circle dances but typically dancers will come out of the line to do their own thing before rejoining the set moves. Avoid Cossack dancing!

How to adapt your repertoire

  • Avoid cliched Russian tunes like the Tetris theme music (good though it is!)
  • Start very slow and speed up!

Our sources

Georgian, Serbian, Croatian, Czech, Moravian and Bulgarian folk as well as traditional Russian songs. Artists: Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir; Georgian Voices; Northern Harmony, Kitka, [ Yale Slavic Chorus]

Here is a youtube playlist of appropriate or inspiring music.

Further Reading

Core Brief

Additional Information