Mesmerizing and mystical, melding soulful Ukrainian folk with jazz and trance sounds

Country: Ukraine

Marko Halanevych — vocal, darbuka, didgeridoo, accordion
Iryna Kovalenko — vocal, djembe, bass drum, accordion, percussion, bugay, zhaleyka
Olena Tsibulska — vocal, bass floor tom, percussion
Nina Garenetska — vocal, cello, bass drum

A shadowy procession to the pounding of drums, to the murmur of a cello, morphs into an anthem, an invocation, a wild and wacky breakdown. Drones and beats, crimson beads and towering black lambs-wool hats all serve as a striking backdrop for an unexpected, refreshingly novel vision of Eastern European roots music. This is the self-proclaimed “ethno-chaos” of Ukraine’s DakhaBrakha, a group that feels both intimately tied to their homeland, yet instantly compelling for international audience.

The quartet does far more than introduce Ukrainian music or prove it is alive and well. They craft stunning new sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances. With one foot in the urban avant-garde theater scene and one foot in the village life that nurtured and protected Ukraine’s cultural wealth, DakhaBrakha shows the full fury and sensuality of some of Eastern Europe’s most breathtaking folklore.

The name is original, outstanding and authentic at the same time. DakhaBrakha means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language. DakhaBrakha was created in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art “DAKH” by the avant-garde theatre director –Vladyslav Troitskiy. Theatre work has left its mark on the band performances – their shows have never been staged without the scenic effects.“We decided to create a new style of music that consists mainly of our native Ukrainian folk motifs, with some African-styles added in. We also combine Arab, Bulgarian and Hungarian ideas. DakhaBrakha collects the components of its repertoire during our expeditions. We go out to villages, pitch our tents and visit local babushkas and ask them to sing their folk songs. We record them and use them in our compositions,” – says the band. DakhaBrakha is still somewhat of a cult phenomenon in Ukraine, appealing to a discerning audience of knowledgable fans who like their aggressive sound, which involves a lot of ritualistic tribal rhythms and frenzied, sometimes caterwauling, vocals.

They believe that Ukrainian culture has enormous potential that should be explored and retained.As well as performing gigs as a band in their own right they are also the ‘house’ band for the Dakh Theatre company . Dakh Theatre is known throughout Europe as one of the leading production houses of avant-garde theatre combining live music from DakhaBrakha with theatre and dance to create some intense productions. Their series of Shakespeare interpretations has brought them to many of Europe’s leading venues including London’s Barbican in January 2007. DakhaBrakha are unique in their versatility – they could play both at small clubs, little theatres and in front of one hundred-thousand-strong audience.The music of DakhaBrakha is used in more than 10 films and is in the new film of famous Iranian director Mohsen Makmalbaf.

DakhaBrakha performed more than 500 concerts and performances and has taken part in numerous inter­national festivals in Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Hun­gary, Poland, France, Great Britain, Austria, Slove­nia, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Slovakia, Italy, China, United States, Canada, Colombia, Malaysia, South Korea, Mexico.

List selected of festivals: Holland festival The Netherlands 2016, Glastonbury UK 2016, BAM Spain 2016, Lowlands The Netherlands 2015, Sziget Hungary 2013&2015, Roskilde Denmark 2013, Les 3 Elephants France, Art Rock France, Haapavesi Folk Music Finland, Urkult Sweden 2015, Eurockéennes Belfort France, Festival de la Cité Lausanne Switzerland, Suds Arles France, WOMAD United Kingdom, Esperanzah! Belgium, OFF Poland, Theaterfestival Isny Germany, Medimex Italy, Fusion Germany, Mundial The Netherlands, Ethnosur Spain, FMM SINES Portugal, Sfinks Belgium, Bardentreffen Nurnberg Germany 2013, Haldern Pop Germany 2013, Les Invites de Villeurbanne Lyon France 2013, Stockholm Culture Festival Sweden 2013, Festival Les Traversées Tatihou France 2013, Festival Voix de Femmes Belgium 2013, Transmusicales Rennes 2013, SXNF (The Hague 2013), Eurosonic (Groningen 2013),WOMEX (Thessaloniki 2012), WOMAD (UK, 2012), WOMADelaide (Australia 2011), CINARS (Canada 2010), Oslo World Music Festival (Norway 2011), TFF Rudolstadt (Germany, 2011), MED (Portugal 2011), Festival Aux heures d’ete (Nantes, France 2011), Ethno Port (Poland 2011), City of Women (Slovenia 2010), Helsinki festival (with Kimmo Pohjonen, Finland 2010), Pohoda Festival (Slovakia, 2010), Mundial Festival (The Netherlands 2010), The Festival of World Cultures 2008-2009 (Ireland), The Creation of Peace (Russia 2008), GogolFest (Ukraine 2008-2010), DakhaBrakha with Theatre “Dakh” played 10 performances “Prologue to “Macbeth” at the Barbican Centre (London, UK, 2007),  JazzKoktebel (Ukraine 2006), The Summer Festival (Budapest, Hungary 2006), The International Art Festival “Bulwar sztuki” (Torun, Poland, 2006),  “Brave festival” “Magic voices” (Vrotzlav, Poland 2005), Shakespearian Theatre Festival (Gdansk, Poland, 2005), Shakespearian Theatre Festival (Diula, Hungary 2005-2006)

Press quotes

“DakhaBrakha were so thrilling, so spellbinding, and so utterly moving, it was an event unto itself,” Poneman said later. “There was OFF, and then there was DakhaBrakha. They were enchanting and unlike anything that I’ve ever seen before.” He called it “the performance of the festival” and bemoaned that DakhaBrakha was “not on the

Sub Pop roster… yet.” Jonathan Poneman (SUB POP) after DakhaBrakha’s show at OFF festival, Poland in 2014

This summer DakhaBrakha became also the Best Breakout of Bonnaroo festival, USA
Ukrainian folkdrone Björkpunk quartet Dakhabrakha went into Bonnaroo as unknowns but ended up with one of the most receptive crowds of the weekend. They got cheers for mournful accordion and apocalyptic cello sawing. Animal noises and bird whistles and howls got the audience to return favor, turning the tent into a happy menagerie. Rolling Stone Magazine, USA, 2014

I was first alerted to what for me is a major recent discovery, DakhaBrakha, by a video on YouTube of three striking women in white wedding dresses and tall black Astrakhan hats, harmonising in mighty, steel-tearing Ukrainian white-voice, two of them pounding drums and the third digging into a folk-pattern-painted cello with massive abrasive energy, plus a male singer wielding accordion and trombone.
The album [Na Mezhi] is as exciting and powerful as I’d hoped. Insistent song melodies, gathered partly from the band’s trips to Ukraine’s villages, developed and made rich, fierce, dark and wild by overlaying and criss-crossing them, over grinding, propulsive textures of drums, wild cello, wheezing accordion, reedy-squealing zhaleika and bagpipe, bubbling trombone, narrowing focus to heart-rending, impassioned solo vocals. Andrew Cronshaw for fRoots



DakhaBrakha – Sho Z-Pod Duba – Later… with Jools Holland – BBC Two

DakhaBrakha performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded April 23, 2017

DakhaBrakha performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded September 26, 2015.

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