Blowing minds from Berlin to Bonneroo.
DakhaBrakha pairs Ukranian vocal harmonies with global rhythms for a unique world-roots sound.
Theatrical and rootsy, rural and cosmopolitan, patriotic and internationalist, the riveting quartet DakhaBrakha brings together contrasting sensibilities with grace, soul, and sheer sonic bravado. Combining haunting three-part polyphonic vocal harmonies straight out of the Ukrainian countryside with a global array of rhythms, this singular ensemble has blown minds from Berlin to Bonneroo. The group makes its East Bay debut April 25 at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse.
While Russia continues to threaten the territorial integrity of the group’s home country, the world-roots ensemble delivers an incandescent case for the protean power of Ukrainian culture, creating a hair-raisingly beautiful body of music as gentle as the first stirrings of spring and as raucous as a vodka-fueled wake. The multi-instrumentalists Olena Tsybulska, Irnya Kovalenko, and Nina Harenetsha founded the band in 2004 and were quickly joined by Marko Halanevych on vocals, tabla, didgeridoo, accordion, and trombone.
As they’ve toured the world, they’ve picked up instruments and rhythms along the way, while holding fast to the traditional songs they’ve been immersed in since birth. “Every song has a traditional source recorded in a Ukrainian village,” said Halanevych. “Some songs are changed very much with unusual arrangements, and some not so much, but we always use traditional Ukrainian songs.”
DakhaBrakha grew out of Kiev Center of Contemporary Art, where avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskyi has turned the Dakh Theatre into a creative hothouse. The women appropriated their trademark wedding dresses from a Dakh Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, though in recent years they’ve added a striking closet of peasant finery to their wardrobe.
Part of what makes the group so unpredictable is that its members treat instruments as a means to an end, rather than something to be mastered as an end to itself. It’s a punk aesthetic that doesn’t so much reject the pursuit of virtuosity as sidestep it in favor of sonic collage.
DakhaBrakha, 8 p.m. April 25, $30-$35, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-644-2020, Freight.org.
This report appears in the April edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.
Published online on April 18, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.