DakhaBrakha is world music quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine. Reflecting fundamental elements of sound and soul, Ukrainian “ethno-chaos” band DakhaBrakha, create a world of unexpected new music.
The name DakhaBrakha is original, outstanding and authentic at the same time. It means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language. Accompanied by Indian, Arabic, African, and Ukrainian traditional instrumentation, the quartet’s astonishingly powerful and uncompromising vocal range creates a trans-national sound rooted in Ukrainian culture.
Live Soundtrack for “Earth”: In addition to their own performances, DakhaBrakha also performs their original live soundtrack alongside a screening of the classic 1930 film, “Earth”, by Aleksandr Dovzhenko (considered to be one of the most important films of the Soviet era). Dovzhenko is a master of composition, and the film—with its intense close-ups and the impressive expanses of the landscape—is a passionate tribute to the countryside, to nature, and to the people that work on it.
Areas of Representation:The Americas, UK, Australia, New Zealand, China
Photo by Steve Carrillo for CAP UCLA
DakhaBrakha is music quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine. Reflecting fundamental elements of sound and soul, Ukrainian “ethno chaos” band DakhaBrakha creates a world of unexpected new music.
DakhaBrakha was created in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art “DAKH” by the avant-garde theatre director – Vladyslav Troitskyi – and given the name that means “give/take” in the old Ukrainian language. Theatre work has left its mark on the band performances – their shows are always staged with a strong visual element.
After experimenting with Ukrainian folk music, the band has added rhythms of the surrounding world into their music, thus creating the bright, unique and unforgettable sound of DakhaBrakha. They strive to help open up the potential of Ukrainian melodies and to bring it to the hearts and consciousness of the younger generation in Ukraine and the rest of the world as well.
Accompanied by Indian, Arabic, African, and Ukrainian traditional instrumentation, the quartet’s astonishingly powerful and uncompromising vocal range creates a trans-national sound rooted in Ukrainian culture. At the crossroads of Ukrainian folklore and theater, their musical spectrum is at first intimate then riotous, plumbing the depths of contemporary roots and rhythms, inspiring “cultural and artistic liberation”.
In March 2010, DakhaBrakha won the prestigious Grand Prix prize named after S.Kuriokhin, in the sphere of contemporary art, and confirmed its place in the culture once again. In March 2011 DakhaBrakha was discovered by Australian Womadelaide and began their ascent in the international music scene. They have since played more than 300 concerts and performances and have taken part in major international festivals throughout Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, Asia, Australia, and North America. DakhaBrakha has also collaborated with such international musicians as: Port Mone (By), Kimmo Pohjonen Cluster (Fi), Karl Frierson (DePhazz) (Ge), Steve Cooney (IRL), Inna Zhelannaya (Ru), Kievbass (UA), Djam (UA-Iran), and David Ingibaryan (Hu).
Live Soundtrack for “Earth”:
In addition to their own performances, DakhaBrakha also performs their original live soundtrack along with screening of the classic 1930 film, “Earth”, by Aleksandr Dovzhenko, considered to be one of the most important films of the Soviet era. Dovzhenko is a master of composition, and the film—with its intense close-ups and the impressive expanses of the landscape—is a passionate tribute to the countryside, to nature, and to the people that work on it.
“Earth” was banned 9 days after it’s original release, and was glorified in Ukraine only after Dovzhenko’s death in 1956. Full of lyrical pantheism and utopian exaltation, it demonstrated the ambiguity of Ukrainian geopolitical choice in the 1920s. In 1958, a film critics’ forum in Brussels named “Earth” one of the 12 best films in the history of world cinema.
The group has this to say about the creation of their soundtrack for “Earth”:
“Making music for Alexander Dovzhenko’s “Earth” was a great honor for us and a difficult creative challenge. Frame by frame, this Ukrainian masterpiece of world cinema impressed us every time we worked on it. No matter how we tried to work on the film as a self-contained artistic endeavor, avoiding ideological evaluation, we could not. Of course, we voiced the film in the human terms of the 21st Century, even while being aware that after 1930, when the work was completed on “Earth”, came the years of the Communist famine of 1932-1933, the years of repression, and we know about the difficult fate of the Dovzhenko socialist empire. Together, we tried to convey the authenticity, and also the naivety, of those feelings and messages brought to us from that time and that era, to us today and our Earth.”
Marko Halanevych – vocals, darbuka, tabla, accordion
Marko is the only representative of the countryside in the band. He was born in the village of Krushenivka, in the Vinnitskiy region. into a family of village intellectuals. He graduated from the faculty of the Ukrainian philology, but came into the theatre, became an actor of the Centre of Contemporary Art “DAKH” and then accidentally found himself working with the band. Marko is fond of design – he creates the visual images of DakhaBrakha and also for the “DAKH” theatre where he continues to perform on stage as an actor.
Ira has played Ukrainian ethnic music since her early childhood. Moreover, she has graduated from the faculty of folklore. She is fond of yoga, yachting, and rowing. Ira is responsible for the “brass section” of the group, as she easily gets the feel of different musical instruments. She also performs at the “Dakh” theatre as an actress.
Lena is one of the specialists at the folklore department of the National University of Ukraine. When she has some time off, she works on preparing her Candidate’s dissertation about traditional Ukrainian wedding songs. She is fond of driving, sewing and interior design.
Nina Garenetska – vocals, cello, bass drum
Nina professionally studied folklore and is a self-taught cellist. She is the most artistically open-minded member of the band and is always up for collaborating with other musicians. Nina is fond of traveling, photography, fancywork and adornment creation.
Ethno-Chaos: DakhaBrakha Reinvents Ukraine’s Unsung Roots Music With Global Finesse
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.
“We just want people to know our culture exists,” muses Marko Halanevych of DakhaBrakha, the remarkable Kyiv-based ensemble that has broken down the tired musical framework for Ukrainian traditional music. “We want people to know as much as possible about our corner of the world.”
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.
Refined yet saucy, eerie yet earthy, Ukrainian music has languished in relative obscurity, though its achievements are diverse and sophisticated: complex polyphonic singing with interlocking lines so tight the ears buzz, long and philosophical epics, humorous ditties, instrumental virtuosity, and raucous dance tunes. Ritual and ribaldry, urbane composition and rural celebration, Asian influences and Western harmony all combined to give contemporary musicians a true wealth of potential sources.
DakhaBrakha knows these sources well: the three female vocalists have spent many summers traveling around Ukraine’s villages collecting songs and learning from elder women in remote areas. Like these village tradition-bearers, they have spent years singing together, a fact that resonates in the beautifully close, effortlessly blended sound of their voices. Marko grew up steeped in village life, and draws on his rural upbringing when contributing to the group.
Yet the young musicians and actors were determined to break away from purist recreations and from the stale, schmaltzy, post-Soviet remnants of an ideology-driven folk aesthetic. Urged on by Vladyslav Troitsky, an adventuresome theater director at the DAKH Center for Contemporary Art, a cornerstone of the Kyiv arts underground, the group resolved to create something radically different. They wanted to experiment, to discover, to put Ukrainian material in a worldly context, without divorcing it from its profound connection to land and people. That’s why tablas thunk and digeridoos rumble, filling out DakhaBrakha’s sound, and yet never overshadow the deeply rooted voices and spare, yet unforgettable visual aesthetic.
“The beginning was pretty primitive,” recalls Halanevych. “We tried to find rhythms to match the melodies. We tried to shift the emphasis of these songs. We know our own material, our native music well, yet we wanted to get to know other cultures and music well. We started with the Indian tabla, then started to try other percussion instruments. But we didn’t incorporate them directly; we found our own sounds that helped us craft music.”
Through this experimentation and repurposing of instruments from other cultures to serve DakhaBrakha’s own sound, the band was guided by the restraint, the elemental approach that owed a debt to the emotionally charged minimalism of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich.
“At the same time as we explored ethnic music, we got interested in minimalism, though never in a way that was literal or obvious,” Halanevych explains. “The methods of minimalism seemed to us to be very productive in our approach to folk. The atmospheric and dramatic pieces that started our work together were created by following that method.”
This mix of contemporary, cosmopolitan savvy and intimacy with local traditions and meanings cuts to the heart of DakhaBrakha’s bigger mission: To make the world aware of the new country but ancient nation that is Ukraine. “It’s important to show the world Ukraine, and to show Ukrainians that we don’t need to have an inferiority complex. That we’re not backward hicks, but progressive artists. There are a lot of wonderful, creative people here, people who are now striving for freedom, for a more civilized way of life, and are ready to stand up for it.”
globalFEST presents a series of annual awards that celebrate those that excel in the underrecognized but crucial global music field in the USA.
The awards are presented to artists, professionals, and organizations who have been instrumental in making significant, long-standing contributions to the field through risk-taking; addressing cultural diversity and diplomacy; activism; helping to keep, transmit, ...
“We can’t make any music,” the singer and cellist Nina Garenetska said. “This is our life now: An air raid siren goes off.”
By Laura van Straaten – New York Times
March 3, 2022, 12:55 p.m. ET
For years, the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha has ended its shows chanting, “Stop Putin! No war!” What they had protested has now ...
“One of the most inspiring sets of the entire festival [New Orleans JazzFest 2022] came on day two, when hundreds of festers crowded into the Cultural Exchange Pavilion to watch the rousing Ukrainian band DrakhaBrakha celebrate the spirit and determination of Ukraine against a backdrop emblazoned with the credo of New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians: Won’t Bow Down.” — DOWNBEAT
“We start with a brief brush with greatness. Tonight’s headliners first came across my radar a few years ago at Womad.
Your humble reviewer was helping out in the records and merch tent at the festival when approached by a customer. “Have you heard this lot next door? Absolutely amazing.” I popped my head out of the tent to see the large Siam Tent next door going absolutely crazy. The cause of this mania: Dakhabrakha. The knocked out customer: Robert Plant. If they’re good enough for a casually passing rock god I thought, they’re good enough for me.” – BRISTOL24/7
“But the new(ish) kids on the block are DakhaBrakha who attracted a huge crowd to the Siam stage and had the longest queue for merchandise after the show that anyone could ever remember. DakhaBrakha are a quartet – Olena, Iryna, Nina and Marko – from Ukraine. They’ve branded themselves with their incredible polyphonic singing and stovepipe hats. The short opening song in their set started with super-clashing vocals and then two of the ladies hammering on a thunderous drum. The magic is the vocal power and the theatricality.” review at WOMAD 2019 – SONGLINES
“That mesh of ancient and contemporary is DakhaBrakha’s mission. DakhaBrakha — which means give-take in old Ukrainian — has researched rural folk songs across Ukraine, then reshaped them: first as the house band for a theater company in Kyiv, and now on the international circuit.” — NY TIMES
“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
“The group mixes everything from punk-pop to traditional Ukrainian songs in cool yet beguiling textures, often with the close harmonies usually associated with Balkan music. But it’s really the live shows that take DakhaBrakha beyond mere curiosity to utter brilliance.” — NPR
“All that’s left to do is pick up our jaws from the ground, for DakhaBrakha’s diapasons and vocal ranges are second to none. And all I can do is convulse in the ecstatic rhythm of ‘Carpathian rap’.” — WNUR 89.3 FM
“With their otherworldly singing and self-described ethno-chaos sounds, this Ukrainian quartet mesmerized for a magical 90 minutes, while adding messages of peace and solidarity. A truly remarkable experience.” — Star Tribune
Download KQED Arts article on DakhaBrakha’s soundtrack for the Soviet-era Ukrainian film classic, “Earth”.
Download transcript of PBS News Weekend piece on April 2022 tour during Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The band were absolutely brilliant, the perfect ending to the festival and the biggest most engaged crowd I have seen on a Sunday night.”
— Roberta Quincey-Jones, Festival Coordinator, Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall, UK
“People always ask me, “What’s your favorite Tiny Desk Concert?” Well, right now it’s the one recently performed by DakhaBrakha. The creative quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine make music that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard, with strands of everything I’ve ever heard. (…) I want the world to see this Tiny Desk Concert more than any other right now. It’s refreshing to hear the power of acoustic music and the many worlds of sound still waiting to be explored.”
— Bob Boilen, Host and Creator, Tiny Desk Concert, NPR
“Damn it was amazing, sublime, beautiful. Audience went crazy. They are just spectacular. My 5th show with them. It was a true pleasure. Magnificent.”
— Isabel Soffer, Globalfest, Live Sounds, New York City
“Dakhabrakha delivered a truly transcendant set…….folks were levitating after the show. ”
— Barnett English, Director, Joshua Tree Festival, CA
“It would be an understatement to say it will be the highlight of our season. It might be one of the highlights of my entire presenting career.”
— Caitlin North, Programming Presenter, Arden Theatre, City of St. Albert, Canada
“Because our membership bought up those tickets so fast after we announced it last year in June, we moved the show to our big hall. Blew our minds. So glad we made this happen!”
— Valerie Hiller, Director of Programming, The Fredericton Playhouse, Fredericton, NB, Canada
“One of my top 5 best and proudest moments of my professional life. Audience was amazing mix of our regular “PAC” patrons and Portland hipster scene. And EVERYONE loved it.”
— Aimee Petrin, Exec. Director, Portland Ovations, Portland, ME
“DakhaBrakha has left me speechless. This was an experience of a lifetime, not only as a concert, but as a fully-realized evening of theater. I was completely mesmerized, enchanted, and moved, as was the audience. The spouse of a faculty member (who could not attend) brought their young daughter, and this professor wrote to me to say that her husband reported “that it was the best performance he has seen in his life! They had a wonderful time and came home dancing in the streets!”
The musicians were also incredibly generous with their time and insights that they shared with 35 students of our Music 103 – World Cultures class. The professor was greatly appreciative and felt the lec/dem was enormously valuable to these impressionable young people. Marko, especially, delivered a succinct history of the country and where they are today politically.
DakhaBrakha brought in many, many first-time attendees to our hall (I extended a special rate for parishioners of the two Ukrainian Catholic churches in our area, too), some audience traveled from significant distances, and ranged in age from 5 to 91. A professor from a college 70 miles away attended, bemoaning that her college did not have the group on campus, as it would have been so useful to the course she is teaching on music and war. Donations and sales of merchandise raised over $2,650 for Razom.
Please extend my admiration and appreciation to the artists, as well as [manager] Iryna Gorban, for sharing their music, artistry, and beautiful spirit in Easton.”
— Hollis Ashby, Artistic and Executive Director, Williams Center for the Arts, Easton, PA
“I wanted to thank you all for bringing DakhaBrakha to Port City Music Hall last weekend. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance (we are mid-50’s, for demographic purposes). It was so different and unexpected. The first few pieces were so new to our ears – the close harmonies and odd style of the vocals, and the bending notes of the instrumentation – that it took a little bit, but I could feel myself being drawn in. When they got to the bird-call number, I was hooked. I absolutely loved the rap number, whatever the lyrics were; the rhythms were so totally recognizable and the attitude so familiar, it was delightful. The young woman standing next to me and I could not suppress giggles, it was so weird that the crowd was completely mesmerized when we had no idea what they were actually saying. The whole thing was a hoot. Also it was a GREAT venue for that kind of show. I hope you do more there. We had a fantastic time. Thank you!”
— Audience member letter to Aimée Petrin, Executive Director, Portland Ovations, Portland, ME
“They were fabulous. It was an exceptional concert; we sold out; and the audience LOVED them! Additionally, we had a pretty large student walk-up that night, which doesn’t always happen for us. All in all, it was a great success!”
— Sharon Moore, Center Stage Director, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
“I just wanted to write to let you know what an incredible show we had with Dakhabraka on Friday. I invited five other promoters along to see them who all raved about them. Among their comments back to me today they said:
“This was without doubt one of the most unexpectedly brilliant gigs I have heard in a good few years!”
— Nick Reed, Chief Exec, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, UK
“They were extraordinary – the best live band I’ve seen in a very long time. They absolutely knocked everyone out at the Sage – they are the type of band that, within about 2 mins of them starting, you want to round up everyone you know and bring them to hear the them play.”
— Nick Hallam, Marketing & Communications Director, West Yorkshire Playhouse, UK
— from Tamsin Austin, Sage Gateshead, UK
“We LOVE LOVE LOVE DakhaBrakha! (…) We had to make a security line to get them through in order to sign merch. Thank you for them!”
— Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director, Reston Community Center, Reston, VA
“The show was AMAZING! I have received so much positive feedback about the show. One of the most roaring standing ovations I have seen in our room.”
— Libby Brickson, Program Director, City Winery, Chicago, IL
“They sounded great and our crowd adored them. (…) We need to talk about a return!”
— Tom Frouge, Co-Producer/Curator, Globalquerque, Albuquerque, NM
“They earned rave reviews– everyone was in awe. They are such talented and creative artists. We would like to bring them back anytime.
— John Henderson, Presenter, Roots and Wires Presents, Taos, NM
“It was fabulous!!!!! (…) It was one of those concert experiences that no one can stop talking or thinking about. (…) The audience interrupted a few songs with applause before they ended and gave them several standing ovations–even for individual songs. Thanks so much for your part in getting DakhaBrakha here. We’ll have them again ANY ole time.”
— Martha Van Burek, Executive Director, West Kortright Center, NY
“They were simply great! I was blown away by their versatile and intriguing presentation. It was indeed one of the highlights of the festival.”
— Ken Clay, Presenter, World Fest, Louisville, KY
“I wanted to get in touch and let you know that I went to the performance by DakhaBrakha last night at The Port Theatre in Nanaimo. Wow! I loved them the first time I saw them at WAA in Seattle, but they far exceeded my expectations last night. It was an incredible experience and the three others I took with me all said it was the best concert they had ever been to, which is saying a lot since they are avid music lovers. I was kicking myself for not having brought them to the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre.”