Few musical groups have a name as fun to say as DakhaBrakha. It’s odd and joyful, which is a fair description of their music as a whole. This Kiev-based quartet isn’t shy about grabbing you by the ears, featuring unusual beats that sound familiar yet strangely foreign. An African drum may race across the soundscape, shortly followed by a slinky accordion.
It’s exciting and avant-garde. They describe it as “ethno-chaos,” I describe it as endless fun. One of the first songs I heard by them, “Tataryn,” made me imagine a raucous Slavic witch gathering in the woods. The addictive energy of the drums is punctuated by the singers’ fox-like yips and yelps, along with several rowdy shouts.
It could easily descend into violent cacophony, but through a mix of talent and artistry, DakhaBrakha really makes it work.
Yet to say they only do impassioned folk songs is a vast understatement. DakhaBrakha can also rip your heart out with the slow build of “Vesna” and its melancholy howls, or “Baby” which takes thing in a totally different direction, unexpectedly soul in sound.
The group formed in 2004 at the Dakh as part of a theater project which needed musical accompaniment. The three female vocalists (Olena Tsybulska, Irnya Kovalenko and Nina Harenetsha) were part of a folk band called Kralytsia before meeting and teaming up with Marko Halanevych, who’s skilled with tabla, didgeridoo, accordion and trombone.
The women bring their own assortment of instruments to the table, from cello to darbuka and jew’s harp, creating a wondrous collage of sound. At the group’s heart is the vocalists’ strong background in folk music, which allows them to extrapolate with success. Marko explains:
“Every song has a traditional source recorded in a Ukrainian village. Some songs are changed very much with unusual arrangements, and some not so much, but we always use traditional Ukrainian songs.”
DakhaBrakha debuted in North American in 2013, and was later hailed by Rolling Stone as the “best breakout” at TN’s Bonnaroo festival. Not only are they are a group to watch, but they’re hard to miss in their foot-tall wool hats!
DakhaBrakha means “give and take,” a nod to their theater origins as well as their piecemeal method to madness. Their confident departure from the mundane while staying loyal to their roots is worthy of the buzz.
Grab their CDs when you want to hear polished yet experimental tunes.
Banner image credit goes to Tetyana Vilchynska.
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