Belarus’ art music originates from the folk music of Eastern Slavs. Instrumental performance was an important part of cultural traditions of the Belarusian countryside. The most popular folk instruments were duda, zhaleika, gudok, lyre, violin, and cimbalom.
Church music gained a lot of popularity in Belarus. Outstanding pieces of vocal and instrumental works Polotsk Notebook and Chimes were created in the 15th-17th centuries.
In the 18th century private theaters and chapels of magnates, including the Radziwills, the Sapiehas and the Oginskis became the centers of cultural life. Among the famous composers of that time were Jan Holland, Arnost Vancura, Maciej Radziwill.
The most popular contemporary music groups include the Presidential Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus, the State Academic Symphony Orchestra, and the State Academic Choir named after G. Shirma.
Artists of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of Belarus, the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theater musicaltheatre.by, and the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society are well known both in Belarus and abroad due to their outstanding talent and performance excellence.
The most famous Belarusian composers include Stanislaw Moniuszko, Heinrich Wagner, Vladimir Mulyavin, Igor Luchenok, Eduard Khanok, Dmitry Smolsky, Oleg Yeliseyenkov.
The National Academic Concert Orchestra of Belarus under the baton of Mikhail Finberg is one of those who define the contemporary Belarusian music culture. One of the most important lines of activity of the orchestra is holding chamber music festivals in small towns of Belarus.
The vocal group Chisty Golos (Pure Voice), the Pesnyary and Syabry music groups can be by right considered the calling cards of Belarus.
Belarus holds 60 international and national festivals annually, including 30 music festivals. The biggest of them are the International Festival of Arts Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, the Maladzechna national festival of Belarusian songs and poetry, Belarusian Music Autumn, Minsk Spring, Kupala Night Festival (Alexandria Gathers Friends). All of them have rightfully become the signature events of sovereign Belarus. These festivals are constantly growing and evolving. All Belarusian festivals by month are available here.
The International Festival of Arts Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk is Belarus’ main cultural event of the year. For more than a quarter of a century, this largest music forum has been held in ancient Vitebsk, the homeland of Marc Chagall, under the auspices of the President of Belarus. The festival has welcomed dozens of thousands of participants from more than 100 countries of the world. The Summer Amphitheater, the main stage of the festival, has hosted hundreds of concerts with millions of spectators watching it all over the world.
Every July the festival brings together renowned artists and rising stars. The mission of the festival is formulated in its motto - Through Art to Peace and Understanding. The same name bears the Belarusian President's special award presented at the festival.
The Kupala Night Festival in the agrotown of Alexandria originated in 2011. Every year in early July, Alexandria becomes the venue of large-scale summer festivities in the President’s homeland - Shklov District of Mogilev Oblast. All events are held on the banks of the Dnieper River. The holiday is meant to be a cultural bridge between different nations. Alexandria welcomes guests from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and the geography of the participating countries expands every year. Among the participants of the festival are folk art groups and crafts people. Trading stalls offering a variety of souvenirs and national cuisine line up along the banks of the picturesque Dnieper River.
The Festival of National Cultures in Grodno is a unique event first held in 1996. It has become not only a visiting card of the city, but also one of the country’s major cultural and tourist brands. Every two years the forum brings together representatives of ethnic groups from different regions of Belarus. The main idea is to preserve the national identity while strengthening unity and friendship. On the first weekend of June, the festival gathers about 1,000 performers representing about 40 nations. For two days, Grodno downtown turns into a large-scale art venue featuring national courtyards, workshops, photo zones, folk fashion shows, dance master classes and a sports tournament that introduces guests to traditional games of different nations.