Event Review: DakhaBrakha @ Oval Space (London; 29th November 2017)

Ice-cold breezes and dark evenings are commonplace for Londoners in the last few weeks of November. On the evening of the 29th, a long queue gathered outside the Oval Space doors, all wearing a respectable range of woolly coats and shaggy caps, warm voices resonating in disparate languages. First come first served – it’s the rule – as people started to legitimately take their spots at the foot of the stage.

As we all know, the Oval Space does not offer sound and views to the same degree. However, will there be enough space for dancing, knowing the concert is sold out? Better to have a good look at the ensemble, rather than behold the desire for dancing in the back. After all, DakhaBrakha produces strong collision music, no shortcuts or breadcrumbs. The Ukrainian quartet went all the way inside to the core of their artistry – a ‘cultural and artistic liberation in musical explosion’.

The quartet consists of Iryna Kovalenko, Nina Garenetska, Marko Halanevych, and Olena Tsybulska. DakhaBrakha means ‘give and take’, and their show confirmed the harmony within which they perform its sonic unison synchronously. Notwithstanding a smattering of technical sound problems, the performance elapsed in voicing Ukrainian folkloric songs and tales on top of deep drumming. Above the lyrical phraseologisms and idioms, the group’s substantial creativity shone through.

Seeing DakhaBrakha live means breathing the energy of cross-continental folkloric customs as they expand from calm and intimate chanting to tumultuous and manic beat cycles. African and Arabic bass drums, Russian and Western wind instruments, a piano and a cello forging a soulful avant-garde approach in the act of playing with firm blood; theatrically hip-hop at times, intrepidly folk passionate in other times.

Witnessing such a concert (made possible by the joint effort of Dash Arts and Nest Collective and part of REVOLUTION17) means hearing music actually channelling the indescribable cross-cultural recalling that dwells in the last line of ‘Monakh’: “What is this life, if, full of care; we have no time to stand and stare. A poor life this is, if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”.

Photo ©: Dana Morton