For much of the last decade, Ukrainian musical group DakhaBrakha has been sounding alarms about the rising tide of political violence. “Stop Putin!” goes a chant regularly featured in their live shows. “No war!”
This spring, as DakhaBrakha was preparing for a long-planned, pandemic-delayed U.S. tour, those warnings proved all too prophetic. Russia invaded its western neighbor. Fighting continues in and around the group’s native Kyiv.
“We can’t make any music,” multi-instrumentalist Nina Garenetska recently told The New York Times. “Because this is our life now: An air raid siren goes off — you go downstairs, you wait, you go back up. And this is nonstop. When it is too dangerous, we will run to the bomb shelter.”
On Wednesday, April 13, these global ambassadors for Ukrainian culture will visit St. Louis for two live appearances co-sponsored by The Sheldon and Washington University.
Events will begin at noon with a free talk in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge. Peter Palermo, executive director of The Sheldon, and Patrick Burke, chair of the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, will engage the band — Garenetska as well as Marko Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko and Olena Tsybulska — in a conversation about their work. University Provost Beverly Wendland will provide opening remarks. A reception will immediately follow.
At 8 p.m., DakhaBrakha will perform at The Sheldon as part of the Whitaker World Music Series. Intended to highlight the power of the arts to shape and inform deeper understandings of race, culture and ethnicity, the series is co-sponsored by The Sheldon, the Department of Music and WashU’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE2).
The workshop is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. The Women’s Building is located on the Danforth Campus, a short walk north of Mallinckrodt Center. For more information or to register, visit the CRE2 website.
The Sheldon is in the Grand Center arts district, at 3648 Washington Ave. Tickets to the performance are $25-40, or $15 for Washington University students, faculty and staff. Tickets are available through TheSheldon.org and MetroTix outlets. For more information about the concert series, visit thesheldon.org.
DakhaBrakha was formed in 2004 as the house band for Dakh, the experimental theater company led by Vladyslav Troitskyi and based at the Kyiv Center for Contemporary Art. The group’s name is also a play on the Ukrainian words for “give” and “take.”
Troitskyi, who continues to direct the group, describes DakhaBrakha as an “ethno-chaos band,” their music spanning a variety of genres and traditions. These range from Eastern European polyphonic singing to Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instrumentation to contemporary influences such as punk, hip-hop and dance music. The group has released six studio albums, most recently “Alambari” (2020), and performed in concerts and festivals around the world, including Globalfest in New York, Bonnaroo in Tennessee — where Rolling Stone magazine named the group “best breakout” artist — Glastonbury in England and Womadelaide in Australia.
The current U.S. tour will include dozens of performances, from New York’s City Winery to The Triple Door in Seattle to the Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, La. Their numerous honors include the 2009 Sergey Kuryokhin Prize, named for the late St. Petersburg-based composer and experimental artist. In 2020, they won the Shevchenko National Prize, Ukraine’s highest state award for achievements in culture and the arts.