Concerning the appearance of chastushka in folk art, the opinions of scholars differ. In the opinion of some, the chastushka was popular among the people at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. Its bearers were wandering artists. Opponents of this view argue that the ditty as a special song form appeared in the late 19th century.
It’s hard to say which of the scientists is right, but in the famous explanatory dictionary of Vladimir Dal, there is no word “chastushka”. Most still tend to the fact that the ditty as a genre, like a verbal musical miniature, was first mentioned in 1889 by Gleb Uspensky in the essay “New Folk Songs”.
Surprisingly, the chastushka appeared almost at the same time in different regions of Russia. In each locality the people gave their fanciful songs their own unique color. Sometimes the essence, the priority in the sound or theme was heard in the name itself: Saratov suffering, Volga Mataniachka, Ryazan ilkhoshki, vyatskie nezkladushki, Uralskaya tarakki, etc. In different regions these lyrical songs were called in different ways – a vigil, korotushka, pripevka, gypsy girl, sobirushka, topotushka, etc., but in all cases it was precisely about the chastushka.
Chastushka is performed under different folk musical instruments, but more often under the accordion and balalaika. However, the musical accompaniment is not the main thing in the performance of the chastushka, other peoples sing it even without accompaniment.
The structure of the chastushka is simple, although not as simple as it might seem at first glance. You can see that tradition and innovation are organically combined in it.
The tradition consists in a strictly defined volume (usually 4 lines in a chastushka usual, 2 in suffering), in the presence of a whole set of well-established and habitual beginnings and choruses, the invariability of turns and images, the rhyming of even lines (rarely pair... rhyme).
Novelty in the chastushka is brought in different ways in different parts of Russia. Each chastushka bears a surprise, a secret. Somewhere, the first line is omitted, giving the “word” of a harmonica or a balalaika. Other performers, on the contrary, fill with words even a loss or a musical pause. There are lots of options, surprises can come up at any time. All of them have the right to life, because this is folk art.
Whatever frivolous genre the chastushkas might consider other critics, it does not take away two positive components:
– chastushki reflect the history of the people, according to their content, one can judge events from the point of view of ordinary people. Chastushki is the mood of the masses. They are full of live responses to current events or individual life situations. On them it is quite possible to trace the history of the country;
– the chastushka bears a lot of positive (even the famous Saratov sufferings). It can be sad, but the optimistic notes in it are sure to be there, a bit of humor is necessary (often – bantering over oneself).
Cases are known: in states of depression and stress, people sing a few chastushka couplets, as the heartache goes away, and the heart wounds heal. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a person just screams, dancing, – will release steam. And perhaps, so is the great power of collective folk art. Even if it’s as simple as a ditty.
Chastushka is a welcome guest in any company in our time. She, as before, is popular and beloved by the masses. She did not lose her sense – the opportunity to express herself, play a trick on herself and others, ridicule the situation or a person (lazy, official, drunkard). Chastushka always keeps pace with the times. She will never exhaust herself.