DakhaBrakha lends a melodious voice to Ukraine

Over the last 20 years, DakhaBrakha has established itself globally as a unique artistic force, bringing some of Ukraine’s most stylish and fantastical music to the world stage. But more recently, the group has used their international fame to help raise awareness about Russia’s invasion of their country, with their Tour for Ukraine project.

This month, that goal makes its way to B.C. as DakhaBrakha brings their unique sound to Vancouver’s Massey Theatre on March 29 and the University of Victoria’s Farquhar Auditorium on March 30.

“We want people to be aware of what is happening in Ukraine, not only information-wise, but emotions-wise too,” says Marko Halanevych, the band’s frontman.

A message in the melody

The quartet, made up of Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsybulska and Nina Garenetska, falls into a category of experimental Ukrainian folk music unique to them. The group’s music is heavily rooted in classical Ukrainian folk, but is played with a variety of instruments and vocal styles which contribute to their
distinctive sound.

Experimental Ukrainian folk quartet DakhaBrakha is using their unique musical approach to give a voice to their country. | Photo by Olga Zakrevska.

Beyond the more standard musical elements, the band also adapts sounds from the world around them like birdsong, wind and rain.

“Our concept is mixing different musical stylistic elements,” says Halanevych. “We listen to the world and absorb the best and combine it with our natural Ukrainian beginning.”

The group was established in Kyiv in 2004 by Vladyslav Troitskyi, the band’s director. Troitskyi’s theatre background is prominently featured in DakhaBrakha’s shows through elaborate costumes and stunning visual accompaniments. However, since the war in Ukraine began, the visual aspects of the show have been altered.

“Our program has changed since the full-scale Russian invasion. We have a new video art, which represents our reflections, [including] my works and the works of Maria Volkova, and illustrations by Serhii Yarmolenko, Serhii Maidukov, Marysia Rudska, Katya Lisova, Neivanmade and many others,” says Halanevych.

DakhaBrakha’s music has also been impacted by the conflict. It is often upbeat and energized, but that does not match up to what many Ukrainians have been put through since the invasion. So while creating art is still their primary goal, Halanevych says the group has also focused on using their art to send a message about what is happening in their homeland.

“For two years of the full-scale invasion, we have been trying to remind people about the war in our country and thank them for their support,” he says. “It is difficult for us now to play entertaining and cheerful compositions. In fact, there are tracks dedicated to those who died because of Russian aggression or dedicated to people who defend our freedom.”

Hope brings strength

Halanevych also talks about the impact on the band of representing their country during the war. Mainly, he emphasizes feelings of inadequacy.

“We are often called cultural ambassadors,” he says. “We are already used to this definition. However, to be honest, we have a constant feeling that we are not perfect and need to do more and be more.”

Despite the weight of this responsibility, he believes the message is getting across.

“We have been talking a lot with different people. After the concerts all over the world, we believe we manage to represent the correct message and still try to keep the balance between art and important messages,” says Halanevych.

While representing Ukraine is an important part of the group’s new show, they also emphasize that it is not all about tragedy, aiming to give the show some positive energy when they can.

“In addition to empathy, we would like people to feel proud and hopeful and have the strength to help and support us in the future,” says Halanevych.

For more information on the concerts, visit: www.caravanbc.com/events