Kleztory and DakhaBrakha
in Nuclear Mode
A double musical explosion at Place des Arts
By Luc Archambault
There are concerts that mark one’s memory for a long time and that become icons of excellence and invention. The one held on Wednesday, April 12, which showcased two groups, Kleztory, a Montreal-based Klezmer band, and DakhaBrakha, from the Ukraine, imposes itself as one belonging to this prestigious list.
Kleztory, a band born in 2000, is composed of five musicians: Elvira Mishabakhova, Mélanie Bergeron, Dany Nicolas, Mark Peestma and Airat Ichmouratov. This cultural mosaic of Russian, Canadian and Moldavian origins gives to this ensemble strength and virtuosity without equal.
With their deep dive into the Klezmer repertoire, this traditional Eastern European music seemingly so foreign, Kleztory builds an essential bridge between this strangeness and the warmth of its music and meanings. With a strong and playful performance, chants and musics weaving links through the diverse origins of its members. Who would’ve guessed the common links between Klezmer and Bluegrass?
This cultural mosaic of Russian, Canadian and Moldavian origins gives to this ensemble strength and virtuosity without equal.
This show was the stage for the release of their latest CD, Nigun, their fifth album. Nigun is a Hebrew word meaning melody, and what melodies! Kleztory is a band to follow in the future. Their success is now worldwide and they are on a global tour around the planet. Now that’s cultural promotion!
As a finale for this concert, the band from Kiev, DakhaBrakha, which means “give and take” in Ukrainian. Proud of their origins, they don’t shy away to proclaim a “strong and free” Ukraine, waving their national flag.
This quartet is composed of Irina Kovalenko, Marko Halanevych, Nina Garenetska and Olena Tsybulska, who, all the while intoning traditional chants – and here, the voices and vocal arrangements are typically Eastern European, dissonant and polyphonic, like the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices – reinvent this tradition through rhythms, a completely off-the-wall and ultra-modern score with simple instruments, like accordions, drums, tam-tams, a cello, flutes, a piano, harmonica.
Nothing electric, nothing forged or faked, only sound in its purest form, magnificently orchestrated! The performance is energetic, profound; the chants seem to stem from another time altogether, but the novel arrangements and musicography enhance and reinvent this tradition. A high-level, high-flying act.
This group is criss-crossing the planet in an infernal tour and has put out five albums as of yet: Yahudky, 2007; Na Mezhi, 2009; Light, 2010; Khmeleva Project, 2012; and most recently The Road, 2016. By the way, last week’s concert almost didn’t take place, one of the group’s members having problems with her entry visa because of our too restrictive custom officers.
‘…the chants seem to stem from another time altogether, but the novel arrangements and musicography enhance and reinvent this tradition.’
How can we not abandon ourselves to listening to these strong voices emerging from the depths of the ages, to this originality that combines tradition and modernity, mad rhythms and voices from history’s deep end? How can one resist a free and strong Ukraine, all in warmth and inspiration, under the aegis of such ambassadors?
Here, I must admit my disbelief at the empty seats of the Wilfrid Pelletier concert hall during this magnificent show. I probably contributed to this by not writing about it earlier. To say that I had all the information I needed, sound samples, all stemming from Traquen’Art, an unparalleled promotional organization that brought Jordi Savall to Montreal earlier this winter. It is a pity that so much excellence didn’t sell out.
I therefore advise you to take note of these names: Traquen’Art, DakhaBrakha and Kleztory, and to religiously attend all their future shows. The state of enchantment you’ll experience will give you a sense of wellbeing as only high-flying music can generate.
Feature image: Sylvain Légaré
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Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.