Mariana Sadovska and Abraham Brody are both ethnomusicologists and between songs they talked about their travels in country areas. They also spoke of their many meetings with elderly women, for whom traditional songs have been an intrinsic part of their daily lives. Mariana was born in Lviv, Ukraine while Abraham was raised in the U.S. but now lives in Vilnius, Lithuania – he’s becoming increasingly involved in the culture of his grandparents. He also has Ukrainian ancestors.
They performed twenty, almost exclusively traditional songs including an encore. They’d had, we heard, their very first face-to-face meeting that afternoon and hadn’t planned to perform together – but five of the songs were duets, at the beginning and end of each set as well as the encore. Of the remainder Abraham did nine solo songs and Mariana six. They’re both excellent vocalists with a great range and very emotive voices. Mariana broke out into enthusiastic vocalese including dog-like noises on a “spring-calling” song and sounds of sexual passion on another about Midsummer Night, ‘The only night when Mother Earth reveals her darkest mysteries. The night of love’. “Sorry, Mariana. I just cannot compete with that” Adrian said as the applause died down, and joked about Lithuanians being cold on the outside and warm on the inside. Mariana’s been compared to Bjork and P.J. Harvey and it’s not difficult to see why. They sang in Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Lemko – a language from south-western Ukraine and Slovakia – with two songs partly in English.
Abraham accompanied most of his songs on either violin or ‘shruti box’, and this provided a suitably haunting and mournful backing to his often sad lyrics. He played a zither on one song and also created stunning soundscapes with clever use of looping, both voice and instruments. Mariana played a larger melodeon-like instrument that required regular pumping of its bellows as well as an electric piano. She also used some loops on a couple of songs that were very effective.
Lyrically, with songs about an orphan woman and her abusive husband, a widow being told by an eagle that it’d picked over the bones of her spouse, and the soul of a dead man making its way to the afterlife, we were a little short on laughs for the first hour or so. However, a couple of Mariana’s songs about babas (women, not old women!) greatly changed the mood and provided some diversity. The encore, a bit wobbly at times, was introduced as “a hymn for Lemko people.”
This was an enjoyable concert and was well received. The only negative aspect was the pacing – the performance was intended to be a show of two equal halves but both Mariana and Abraham got so much into it, the first set lasted an hour and a half. This meant quite a few of the audience left at the break, the second set being compressed into about forty minutes, effectively curtailing their chance to chat engagingly between songs. The show reached a peak near the end of the first set, the atmosphere of the second a little flatter. Still, given the impromptu nature of the event, we can surely forgive them for that.
The entire concert was filmed by three cameras so no doubt it will become available in some format before long. Both performers are highly recommended, when they return to London.
Mariana Sadovska and Abraham Brody performed as part of the ongoing cultural programme of concerts, performances, dance nights and talks at Dash Arts, Rich Mix.