Dash Arts continue to delight their audiences with musical talents from Eastern Europe as part of their latest regional focus. Last week they hit some sensitive strings by bringing to London a musical quartet from the very heart of the European crisis. The Ukrainian band Dakha Brakha is an eclectic musical phenomenon that seeks to represent the new post-revolutionary Ukraine – a goal they more than surpassed in their recent uplifting performance at Rich Mix in East London.
Dakha Brakha are one of several musical offsprings of the DAKH Contemporary Arts Centre in Kiev, a renowned experimental arts hub in Ukraine. Deriving its name from the Arts Centre, ‘Dakha Brakha’ also derives from archaic Ukrainian as “Give and Take”, evoking a number of primordial pagan and ethnic references in tune with its ethno-chaos style. Well known in their homeland, the quartet was a winner of the prestigious Sergey Kuryokhin experimental music award in Russia. The members consist of Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko and Nina Garenetska and vocal extraordinaire Marko Galanevych.
The band, who have caused many a furore at gigs in their home country, are as stylish musically as they are visually. In grotesque white dresses, voluminous neck bangles and traditional tall Cossack hats, the girls looked ready to marry Ukrainian traditional soulfulness with the mad heartbeat of revolutionary discontent and freedom. The femininity of the flamboyant dresses quickly faded, however, as the girls worked up zealous rhythms coming from the very depths of human emotion. The wilfulness and determination of the drums, painted in faded traditional patterns, made a striking impression, performed by these bizarre brides of the Revolution. Marko, the only male member, was dressed in a stylish adaptation of traditional Ukrainian male costume and his performance ranged from intoxicating liquor-smooth soulful singing in English and Ukrainian to a fervent and unrestrained bawling that contrasted well with the folk couplets. This eclectic musical impromptu produced a striking combination of stylistic influences and associations – a seeming musical chaos out of which meaning is born.
Dakha Brakha, have been less active politically than some of their fellow Ukrainian bands. But it’s difficult to imagine any Ukrainians left cold by recent events, and Dakha Brakha too convey a healthy revolt against the murk of the Ukrainian crisis: its own internal corruption and the misleading propaganda that surrounds it. The violent drums and rapturous songs, tearing apart the lull of traditional Ukrainian folk songs, produced an atmosphere that seemed to express a universal cri de coeur from all those concerned. All in all, Dakha Brakha’s message conveys an intelligent balance of music and politics. The lack of avid nationalist slogans and tasteful balance between Ukrainian vernacular styles and international musical influences proved that with the right delivery even the most parochial of Ukrainian rural styles can fit effortlessly into a world-level music scene.
Following the disturbing political and social developments in Ukraine these past few months Dakha Brakha’s international appearance, facilitated by London’s Dash Arts project, made a refreshing infiltration of energy and style from a region in trouble – an illuminating performance.
DakhaBrakha’s albums Na Mezhi and Yahudky can be bought online at Amazon.co.uk.