Documentation of its music stretches back to at least the 15th century. Prior to that, skomorokhs were the major profession for musicians. A neumatic chant, called znamenny, from the word 'znamia', meaning sign or neume, used until 16th century in Orthodox church music, followed by two hundreds of stylistic innovation that drew on the Renaissance and Protestant Reformation. In the 17th century, Partesnoe penie, part singing, became common for choruses, followed by private theaters established in cities like Minsk and Vitebsk.
Worth noting is Stary Olsa a modern folk band that revives the old melodies of the medieval Belarus (Grand Duchy of Lithuania). The band uses authentic instruments that they made themselves based on the old designs from the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The folk-rock band Kriwi is another notable example of a contemporary band that creates music based on old Belarusian folklore music.
In the 20th century, the first secondary education institute in Belarus was founded (1924) and the first operas (Mikhas Podgorny by E. Tikotsky, In Virgin Forests of Polesie by A. Bogatryev and The Flower of Happiness by A. Turenkov) and ballets (The Nightingale by M Kroshner).
Later in the century, American rock and roll became popular while the country was a part of the Soviet Union. Popular rock bands included Verasy, Siabry and Pesniary. Pesniary was probably the best known Belarusian band in the Soviet times and was very popular in USSR for several decades, specially in early 80's.
Belarus gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union and new bands appeared, including N.R.M., ULIS, Little Blues Band, The Stoks, Tornado, Krama and Neurodubel. Modern pop stars are also well-known, including Boris Moiseev and Lyapis Trubetskoy (though they tend to orient themselves toward Russia and Russian speakers). There are also electronic music performers like Autism, Energun 22, h.h.t.p.. Worth noting is Drum XTC performs live drum'n'bass. Around 2002 a new generation of electronic bands appeared, organized by Electrokids promo-group, including the groups like Randomajestiq, Stone People, Dreamlin, T-Trider, CherryVata and Koordinate of Wonders.
N.R.M. is probably the best-known rock band of the late 90's and 00's.
In 2003, Belarus took part in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest for the first time. Their participant, Volha Satsiuk, came in 4th place. In 2004 Belarus made it to the semifinals of the regular Eurovision Song Contest. The country was represented by a duo Alaksandra i Kanstantsin, who failed to reach the final. Nevertheless, they won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2005 the following year, with Ksenia Sitnik's song, 'My Vmeste'.
Overall, Belarusian rock musicians and fans find life in Belarus today no less difficult than in the USSR era, many of the bands can never get to FM or any state-sponsored event, they can't rent music halls for their concerts. The Belarusian authorities continue to dislike rock music, preferring to promote folk or "Slavic" music at the country's top musical event -- the state-sponsored Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, an annual pop and folk music festival in Vitebsk. Instead, the biggest and most famous festival of Belarusian rock music takes place outside of Belarus, in Gródek (Haradok, Гарадок), northeastern Poland, a small town some 40 kilometers east of Białystok -- the center of Podlaskie Voivodeship, which is inhabited by a 200,000-strong Belarusian minority. The festival, held in July every year since 1990, is organized by the Belarusian Union of Students (BAS) in Poland. The official name of the event is the Music Festival of Young Belarus or Basovišča ("BASS" + suffix "-ovishcha", alt.spelling Basovishcha, Basoviszcza). Some rock music fans dubbed it "Belarusian Woodstock."
Belarusian rap dates back to the early - mid 90's and has produced three waves of Belarusian rappers. Having evolved around a most influential rap crew of the mid 90's Udar Bandy (Удар банды, The Gang Strikes) and their associates Ё.Б.Т.В.О.Ю.М.А.Т.Ь. (S.C.R.E.W.Y.A.M.O.T.H.E.R.), the first wave was a movement of the most numerous, committed and impassioned rappers in Belarus (born in the late 70's - early 80's). Originating from the city of Lepel, Udar Bandy recorded two amateur highly acclaimed tape albums that were recopied, changed hands massively and produced a great effect on the youth trapped in a disorienting crime and poverty striken environment. In 1997, after recording a controversial studio album Uroki Rasslableniya (Уроки расслабления, Chill Out Lessons) Udar Bandy disappeared from the scene to reemerge in 2007 as the core of a creative alliance called Da Joint with the debut album Vikhod (Выход, A Way Out).
Among other influential rap artists of the mid 90's are Teoria Tmy (Теория тьмы, Darkness Theory), Kat, Ghetto Mentalitet (Гетто менталитет, Ghetto Mentality), Miatezhniky (Мятежники, Rebels), Lisy Dil (Лысый Дил, Baldie Dil) and many more.
The most prominent events of this period include underground hip-hop parties carried out at the Rezervatsya (Резервация, Reservation) club in Minsk and Krapiva-98, a hip-hop festival that drew the entire movement to its apogee.
However, a great start was followed by a détente, after which most of the old school rappers went underground.
The second wave was led in Minsk by Oleg Litvinuk, a person who tried to turn hip-hop into a business and provided an incentive for an array of mostly ephemerous rappers and rap crews. The rap creativity substantially decreased. However, this wave still managed to produced a number of prominent rappers reminiscent of the old school era. By 2005, most of the old school and second wave rappers disappeared. Among the rappes who emerged during the second wave are Nestandartny Variant (Нестандартный вариант, Irregular Variant), who later became a most acclaimed Belarusian pop-rap crew.
The third wave has developed around a Belarusian rap source bratinfo.com and is represented by young (born in the late 80's - early 90's) rappers. Some of the new artists are as charismatic and committed as the old school pioneers, others are more into diss and bling-bling rap.