Located at the crossroads existing between Asia and Europe, Ukraine has been heavily influenced by a great mix of contrasting folklore and ethnic music coming from both cultures. The use of melismatic approach to singing, harmonies that go beyond the traditions of Western European musical concepts that became worldwide standards… all of them combine to create one of the most rich and personal musical traditions from Europe.
Ethnic chaos and world music quarter
DakhaBrakha is a band – a “world music quartet, ethnic chaos band” as they describe themselves in their website’s bio – from Kyiv, Ukraine that tries and succeeds in combining the characteristic elements from their homeland and foreign sounds that will help to enrich their own musical traditions.
The name is originated from to words with roots in the old Ukrainian language: DakhaBrakha means “to give/to take”. It was created in 2004 thanks to the initiative of avant-garde theatre director Vladyslav Troitskyi as a new artistic proposal. Reflecting the most elemental features of sound and soul, they are creating a new realm of sounds that is worth a listening!
The band have progressively experimented with traditional folk music, adding rhythms from all over the world to enhance the beauty, the mystery and the potential of East European music, reaching to the younger generations and the world, disclosing for them the wide sound universe from their music.
They combine Arabic, African, Indian, Russian and Australian traditional instrumentation and their gifted vocal ranges to produce incredible music that you never heard before, accompanied by a superb scene in each of their acts. They find themselves between the musical folklore and theatre, making their musical scene intimate and explosive at the same time, challenging the roots of contemporary perspectives and inspiring, as they say, “cultural and artistic liberation”.
DakhaBrakha’s first album release is Na Dobranich, and it is a recording made at the DAKH Theatre in 2005, produced by Guta Studios and artistic director and producer Vladyslav Troitsky. This album was DakhaBrakha’s first attempt to capture their sound into an album that would be able to reach a larger audience. This concert summarizes the band’s wide stylistic range of sounds, and takes the listener to experience ethnic and modern sounds from Slavic regions and beyond.
We can find tracks that are essentially mysterious haunting and almost tribal, combining the ethnic sounds and putting them together to create a chaotic and yet refined atmosphere for the listener – hence the term “ethnic chaos”, which defines them: the title track Na Dobranich and U Kyevi. Ethnical percussion constitutes an important part of this album’s sound, creating a tribal effect that makes rhythm the leading role in songs like Rusalochky and Rap, which combines rap-style singing but in a very personal approach that doesn’t resemble the American style. Special attention to the vocal work in this album: it contains everything from ancient polyphonic singing (Ivana Kupala) to overtone singing with mouth-harp (Pianyi Art).
DakhaBrakha’s music in this album is very participative and almost ritualistic; I dare to say that it deeply connects the listeners with their primal instincts and other cultures in tracks like Za Duby and Pani. This introduction to DakhaBrakha’s music is very appealing for new listeners, since it brings a comprehensive repertoire of their artistic view.
Yahudky is their second album; it was released in June 2007. With this record, DakhaBrakha makes its entrance in the studio recording of their music. They include some of the best cuts that we already know from the previous album (Pani, Rusalochky or Na Dobranich) and new songs that continue the search for new sounds from all around the world and the crafting of the ethnic chaos. Za Duby explores the heat of a battle by using folk drums combined with warrior’s scream; they also experiment with Indian classical music, vocal harmonies from African tribal chants (Afryka).
Their third album was Na Mezhi, released in 2008. Containing longer tracks to give the listener the opportunity to deeply engage in the artistic performance, DakhaBrakha is creating an evolving atmosphere around each song, making them a complete universe by themselves. Complex structures and climax-building are a constant in this recording. Examples of this are the opening song Oi Za Lisochkom fuses traditional Slavic music with Arabic melodic phrases and is slowly releasing greater amounts of energy, and the successful combination of a traditional waltz rhythm with their own ethnic chaos in Vals.
In 2010 they surprise us with Light, their fourth studio album. It contains a whole new approach for the band, since they explore the addition of lyrics in English and more pop sounds in themes like Baby – which contains a very catchy cello introduction and sweet vocal harmonies with Marko’s falsetto voice. Another remarkable track is Concord Dawn’s Morning Light cover, here titled Please Don’t Cry, adding electronic sounds and haunting distorted cello melodies, making it completely refreshing to our ears.
Following this great success, which made them able to reach an even greater audience from all around the world thanks to the popularity of their video releases through YouTube, in 2012 they collaborate with Belarusian instrumental trio Port Mone to create the Khemleva Project. In this occasion they return to their roots of ethnic music with the addition of modern instrumentation and electronic sounds by Port Mone, creating a bridge that connects Slavic traditions with a modern audience. Songs like Yelena, which include drum set and Eastern melodies, and Tonke Derevo with electronic beats are continuing the experimental legacy of DakhaBrakha.
The last album The Road, released in December 2016, is full of melodic, psychedelic and sometimes very intense songs. In this album DakhaBrakha used new instruments like piano and acoustic guitar which is a nice new addition to the their already inspiring collection of tools. My first favorite track is “Chorna Khmara” where they used very nice piano part followed by a beautiful vocals and harmonica. The second interesting song is “Chumak” which is lead by acoustic guitar.