Marco Werman and Allison Herrera recently discussed a DakhaBrakha concert at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis on their summer tour of the USA.

“When you go to hear the Ukrainian band, DakhaBrakha, the first thing you notice is their outfits.

The group’s three female vocalists, Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsybulska and Nina Garanetska, wear towering hats made of black lamb’s wool that make you think of old-world farmers roaming the Ukrainian countryside. Pair that with the long, white dresses topped with chunky, beaded necklaces.

It’s quite a fashion statement and suits their unique and beautiful blend of traditional, Ukrainian folk music and punk rock — a sound they describe as “ethno chaos.”

The three women and Marko Halanevych, who plays accordion and sings, came together in 2004 at the Kiev Center for Contemporary Art with the help of avante-garde theater director Vladyslav Troitskyi. The band’s name means “give/take” in Ukrainian. Since their start, they’ve released five albums and gone on 14 tours all over the world.

Vocalist and cello player Nina Garenetska says she especially enjoys the reaction the band gets in the US. “Americans are very emotional people. When they love something, they will jump up and scream and clap. And if they don’t like it, they’ll just sit there quietly,” she said through a translator.

In a recent, sold-out concert at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, no one was sitting quietly. There was plenty of dancing, singing and clapping. Clearly, the love is mutual.

DakhaBrakha draws from traditional Ukrainian folk songs — they want to show people through their music that Ukraine isn’t part of Russia. Ukraine has its own rich traditions going back long before they were part of the Soviet Union. The band’s vocal style is called “white singing” and came from the Hutsuls people in the Carpathian Mountains.

DakhaBrakha has been described as “psychedelic ethno” and “punk ethno” but the group doesn’t label themselves that way. They consider themselves as having more of a world music feel — taking sounds and voices from all over the map and tying it together with Ukrainian folklore.

DakhaBrakha incorporates stories collected from small villages throughout Ukraine. A perfect example is the song “Karpetsky Rap,” or in English, “Carpathian Rap,” from their 2010 album, “Light.” The piece is based on what Garentska recorded from a woman in a village she visited. It tells the story of a young woman in a small village who’s looking for a husband. The song, while hearkening to days gone by, has a contemporary theme.

It’s about sex.

Kovalenko, Tsybulska and Garenetska rap about the young woman’s conquest. Here are some of the translated lyrics: “If only my Mom knew/What Vasyl is capable of/She would just tell me/”Oh my God, no way!”/A cuckoo was calling/Somewhere over there/Where all the guys are good/But Mykola is the best./A cuckoo was calling/Over there near the forest./I don’t love anyone/Like that Yurchik guy.”

“It was almost as if, though upon searching for the right husband, she maybe has some neuroses,” said Tsybulska, who plays percussion and sings. The young woman is basically really picky, as the song illustrates.

“It is about a girl who wanted to find a husband and goes through one after another because there were always issues that arose: [this man] had a bad mother, [this other one] does not own a house, this one’s nose is crooked, for example. So, there were always shortcomings that did not satisfy her,” said Tsybulska. Sound familiar?

Making music about the plight of Ukrainian women is what DakhaBrakha does. It’s something they know well, though the three vocalists say they are lucky not to feel the same pressures that so many other women in their country do. For one, their spouses support their musical ambitions.

“For some people in Ukraine, it’s considered normal to have the idea that a woman should be at home cooking and taking care of things, and she doesn’t need to worry about having a career,” said Garenetska.

Also, many Ukrainian women suffer abuse at home. According to the National Police statistics, 60 percent of women in the country experience some form of intimate partner violence.

“The idea is that a woman must not let herself be oppressed. That if a girl is taught by her mom that it’s OK to be treated a certain way, the consequences will come out later in life. And so we have to teach our children, our daughters, to be strong and to stand up for themselves,” said Tsybulska.

That message comes through in their songs. And in Ukraine, it’s a message that isn’t always well-received. Tsybulska said when people back home listen to them, some are “are in shock.” After all, Ukraine is still a young country. But Tsybulska is hopeful. Women’s roles are changing. Just a handful of years ago, women in Ukraine couldn’t hold certain jobs for fear it would interfere with having a child. Today, more women are providing for themselves and their families. And that’s what DakhaBrakha’s music is all about — being a part of that change.”

Songlines Music Awards 2018 Nominees!

Congratulations to two Riot Artists performers who have each been nominated in multiple categories for the Songlines Music Awards 2018!

Oumou Sangaré: Best Artist; and Africa & Middle East


Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino: Best Group; and Europe

We wish them luck in the awards ceremony in October!

Paul Krugman; DakhaBrakha in Kiev

Friday Night Music: Dakhabrakha in Kyiv

Since that’s where I am at the moment. It is, by the way, a surprisingly handsome city. Just looking at the city center you’d have no idea how much stress Ukraine is under.

For those who haven’t seen previous clips, no, they aren’t doing traditional music or wearing traditional costumes — it’s more a sort of imagined thing, and the music has a lot of influences. But it’s great, which is what matters.

Link to article

NPR has created “a list of the greatest albums made by women between 1964 and the present, as an intervention, a remedy, a correction of the historical record and hopefully the start of a new conversation. Compiled by nearly 50 women from across NPR and the public radio system and produced in partnership with Lincoln Center, it rethinks popular music to put women at the center.” Le Mystere des Voix Bulgare’s 1987 Nonesuch LP, which first put them on the radar of the music world, appears in the list at #78.

78. The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Choir
Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (Nonesuch, 1987)

Spine-tingling, otherworldly beauty is not what the world might have expected from a Soviet-ish group called the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir. And yet a string of albums, beginning with an alluringly named 37-minute compilation called Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices), cracked open a whole sonic world largely unknown beyond the Balkans, full of gorgeous dissonances and fierce, sung-out emotion. Originally released in 1975 by the Swiss ethnomusicologist Marcel Cellier, who ran his own boutique label, the first Mystère album became a hotly sought-after prize among cognoscenti, who dubbed cassette copies for each other. One of those fans was 4AD Records founder Ivo Watts-Russell, who managed to license the material and re-release it in the U.K. in 1986 (and in 1987, Nonesuch did the same in the U.S.). Soon these women from all over Bulgaria became international stars, with their plushly layered, plangent voices weaving together Bulgarian dissonance and Western European-style choral singing. Despite any lyrical context (given that in their U.S. and U.K. versions, these translation-less village songs carried such unrevealing English titles as “Diaphonic Chant”), the music’s emotive power and haunting beauty comes shining through. Anastasia Tsioulcas (NPR Music)