Sunday, December 2, 2012
The "Song of the Volga Boatmen" (Russian: Эй, ухнем!) is a well-known traditional Russian song collected by Mily Balakirev, and published in his book of folk songs. It is a genuine shanty sung by burlaks, or barge-haulers, on the Volga River. Balakirev published it with only one verse (the first). The other two verses were added at a later date. The song was inspired by Ilya Repin's famous painting, Barge Haulers on the Volga, which depicts the suffering of the burlaks in the depth of misery in Tsarist Russia. The song was popularised by Feodor Chaliapin, and has been a favourite concert piece of bass singers ever since. Glenn Miller's jazz arrangement took the song to #1 in the US charts in 1941. Spanish composer Manuel De Falla wrote an arrangement of the song, which was published under the name Canto de los remeros del Volga (del cancionero musical ruso) in 1922. He did so at the behest of diplomat Ricardo Baeza, who was working with the League of Nations to provide financial relief for the more than two million Russian refugees who had been displaced and imprisoned during World War I. All proceeds from the song's publication were donated to this effort.