Out in the west end at Royal York station, you’ll often find TTC busker Yarko Antonevych calmly plucking away at a strange lute-like instrument. The scene so charming and anachronistic that it’s no wonder commuters are instantly drawn to him. “What is that you’re playing?” they’ll ask, and it has become such a common question that Yarko has the bandura‘s history hard-wired into his brain for anyone who cares to know.
Humble Yarko says he is but a bandurist and not a kobzar, or a traveling Ukrainian minstrel who would historically entertain and teach those around him. But if you ask me, with his natural storytelling capability and eagerness to share what he knows, there is no description that better fits him than that of a modern-day kobzar.
For me, being a TTC bandurist is a way of continuing the tradition and legacy of these kobzari. They played in marketplaces; the TTC is my marketplace. I’m introducing the instrument to people who wouldn’t normally hear about it. I’ve been a TTC busker on and off since 1987. It’s a nice way to round out my income, too.
A kobzar is more spiritual, more of a teacher to other people. A bandurist is someone who plays the bandura. Kobzar is a term that I wouldn’t be able to use on myself. Someone else would have to call me that, and I have been called that by certain people.
Next time you are taking the subway to the West end, be sure to stop by!