It’s impossible to listen to DakhaBrakha right now outside a political context; they’re a Ukrainian folk band based in Kyiv. After Russia launched its full-scale war on their country in February, the band published an impassioned anti-Putin post on their website. But long before that explicit statement of solidarity, the four-piece group were using their music to offer a vision of an antifascist, cosmopolitan, vibrant, and independent Ukraine. “DakhaBrakha” is a blend of the old Ukrainian words for “give” and “take,” and the band treat traditional music like a smorgasbord, not a straitjacket. Their stage outfits and towering fuzzy hats are influenced by Ukrainian folk costume and the band’s roots in avant-garde theater, and members Marko Halanevych, Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko, and Nina Garenetska play a bewildering array of instruments originating from India, Russia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. Likewise, DakhaBrakha’s compositions soar and twirl with nods to genres from around the globe while remaining rooted in their homeland. The stunning “Dostochka,” from the self-released 2020 album Alambari, weaves blues and gospel into Ukrainian themes and rhythms, creating a slow, haunting lament that slides between English and Ukrainian lyrics, with piercing solo keening by male and female singers and sweetly urgent vocal harmonies, jazzy piano, and drone instruments. “Lado,” from the same album, is an up-tempo barn burner that sounds like bluegrass that’s taken a ton of amphetamines and stolen a motorbike. DakhaBrakha’s approach is open, passionate, and joyous—listening to them, you feel like you know what their country is fighting for.
DakhaBrakha The Chicago Immigrant Orchestra opens. Mon 7/18, 6:30 PM, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph, free, all ages
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