Music

Rock that Ukrainian ‘ethno-chaos’

Roots and Wires Presents brings back Eastern European band DakhaBrakha

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When DakhaBrakha played in Taos in 2014, the group’s self-described “ethno-chaos” brought down the house. The Ukrainian band is back again thanks to Roots and Wires Presents.

So, if you missed its first Taos show, now is your chance to hear what many Taoseños have called the best musical experience they’ve ever had.

Roots and Wires Presents brings DakhaBrakha to the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership on Saturday (March 11). The show starts at 8 p.m. with Kirry and Friends opening.

“After the first [DakhaBrakha] show in Taos, we had so much positive feedback,” said Jerry Schwartz of Roots and Wires Presents. “We had never had more people say, ‘This was the best show I have ever seen.’ Aside from being utterly inventive and quirky, DakhaBrakha has a real emotional impact on their audience. The music is very raw and definitely transforms and transports the listener.”

DakhaBrakha means “give-take” in the old Ukrainian language. The band has its roots in theater — created in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art by theater director Vladyslav Troitski. All of the band’s shows have a theatrical element that pervades performances.

“After having seen them, it’s hard to say enough about their musical abilities, not to mention their stage presence and performance,” Schwartz said. “All of the band members have theater backgrounds — it’s unique and brilliant the way that they combine their knowledge and love for the traditional folk music from Ukraine and blend it with their theatrical prowess onstage.”

DakhaBrakha’s members are Marko Halanevych (vocals, darbuka, tabla, didgeridoo, accordion, trombone), Iryna Kovalenko (vocals, djembe, bass drums, accordion, percussion, bugay, zgaleyka, piano), Olena Tsybulska (vocals, bass drums, percussion, garmoshka) and Nina Garenetska (vocals, cello, bass drum). They play a variety of traditional instruments spanning Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian influences.

DakhaBrakha’s vocals provide a strong underpinning to songs of traditional Ukrainian folk song lyrics.

“We almost always use folk lyrics and never change the words in songs,” said Halanevych in a 2014 interview with Tempo. “Most of them are from pre-Christian times and have very powerful energy and even the code of our land.”

Halanevych said that DakhaBrakha may change the melody, rhythm or arrangements of traditional Ukrainian folk songs that root the group’s music or mix several songs together, but he emphasizes that DakhaBrakha never changes the lyrics.

The three women in DakhaBrakha are professional folklorists (Ukrainian ethnomusicologists) and recorded their song material from village elders, as well as collecting it from their colleges and teachers. The themes of their lyrics are ritualistic and may reference spring, harvest gathering, weddings or funerals. DakhaBrakha’s physical appearance also has a ritual flair. The women dress in white wedding dresses, and all four members wear tall furry hats.

“The Road,” DakhaBrakha’s newest album, was released in 2016. It was named “best album of the year” by progressive Ukrainian radio, “Aristocrats.”

“‘The Road’ is the story of people overcoming many challenges on their way for freedom,” a statement on dakhabrakha.com.ua reads. “This album was created at the very difficult time for our Motherland. We want to dedicate it to those who gave their lives for our freedom, who continue stand over its guard, and who go the challenging way of a free person without losing their hope.”

In a recent interview with Tempo, Halanevych said the band is now working with his grandmother’s songs, which is very important for him on a personal level. In addition, he said, “What else is definitely important for us is that we used songs from territory that is occupied right now. It is our way to support those people who still live there. Therefore, we are happy that this album was greatly received by our usual audience and by music experts as well.”

Halanevych said, “Our music is a huge happiness and miracle for us and we want to share this feeling with the whole world. It’s just an incredible feeling to get energy from the audience, which is empathizing all these moments of happiness or sorrow with you. We are happy when people feel some emotions that they never felt before, when they open something new inside for themselves.”

Tickets are $17 in advance and $20 at the door. Advance tickets are available at taosmesabrewing.com. The Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership is located at 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. Call the venue at (575) 758-1900. For more information on the band, visit dakhabrakha.com.ua/en.

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