If you were of Ukrainian heritage raised in Canada, you probably didn't have many cool musical role models. Over in the Ukraine, apparently, they have similar problems. What a revelation for all of us, then, is DakhaBrakha (“GiveTake”). Their genre-busting approach reframes traditional Ukrainian music within a radical multi-ethnic mashup they call “EthnoChaos” with a goal of opening up the Ukrainian melodies’ potential to bring to the hearts and consciousness of the younger generation. Strongly rooted in the theatrical, they are a striking sight onstage: white lace dresses, piles of beaded necklaces and exaggeratedly tall black lambswool hats, in contrast to the sole male band member who is nattily garbed in black. As their voices weave between unison, harmony and counterpoint above hypnotic, insistent percussion, members swap duties on accordion, drums, cello, and a bewildering array of Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian traditional instruments. Though their dark and mesmerizing vision is based largely on songs they have field-collected in the great ethnomusicological tradition, it also incorporates indie rock, hip-hop, and contemporary drone and trance.
Since their 2004 inception at Dakh, Kyiv's Centre of Contemporary Art, DakhaBrakha have woven their startling, atmospheric magic at hundreds of shows on three continents. Poised to break out of the “world music” ghetto, they've caught the ear of Sub Pop's Jonathan Poneman and were one of Rolling Stone's “best things we saw at Bonnaroo 2014.” LS/FF