‘DakhaBrakha’: making Ukrainian folk songs a universal language to connect people and generations

21-05-2020
Podcast

We talked with the frontman of the DakhaBrakha band, Marko Galanevych, and the performer of the group Dakh Daughters Natalka Galanevych about Ukrainian traditional singing and its popularity in the world, about the Creative Europe's "Polyphony" project and the preservation of traditions of the Ukrainian song.

In your opinion, can a Ukrainian song become our own musical brand and how are your songs perceived in Europe?

Marko: It is our brand already. Each nation has its own traditional culture. For every nation folk songs are absolutely unique. This is the difference between popular culture and pop culture, which today, by and large, is the same. Folk songs originate from ancient times, they are strong, they passed the test of time, and if they are preserved, then they actually have a very strong stream of energy. These are the songs that reached us; it is with such songs that we work. Folk songs are our inspiration, a source of creativity and, in fact, our strength. People are ready to perceive, see and understand the authentic song in the form that we show it to the world, in experiments, fusion, in ethno-house, without understanding words, texts or meanings. People understand music, and music is a universal language.

Natalka, you went on tour abroad with the composition Rosa Donbass, in which Shakespeare’s sonnets and Ukrainian folk songs are mixed, how was your work perceived there?

Natalka: This composition is very much loved in the world. It is an indisputable hit there. Obviously, these song codes work because they are real, they have survived more than one century, and you can feel the strength in this. When you perform these songs, you feel that you are not alone, that generations are with you, and this force gives you the power to stand on stage, on your own land and on this planet.

Marko, do you know about the EU-supported Polyphony project, which created an online archive of Ukrainian folk songs? Can it inspire you to create new tracks?

Marko: This is an incredibly important project in which so many carriers of an authentic song were recorded that we did not even imagine that there were so many groups, grandmothers, and living carriers of these songs, who possessed this knowledge. This is an incredible work, and I am very grateful to the people who put their efforts into it.

We promoted this project on one of our Ukrainian tours, we also handed out leaflets about this project abroad, because we know that people are interested, they want to learn more. This is a very cool thing that allows people to delve deeper. The songs are categorised by voice, there are different variations of the songs in the archive.

This is a very important project for Ukraine and we will definitely use it. We have already tried to do one of the variations of the song "Oh, the snow fell" with DakhaBrakha. We know that in Ukraine there is a great variability in the performance of these songs in different regions. The archive contains versions of the song "Oh, the snow fell" from, it seems, Zaporizhzhya, Kharkiv and Dnipro regions. My grandmother Olya sang this song to me, although she was from Vinnytsya Region. That is, there is one name of the song but there are many options for melodies and words, as well as options for the content of the composition.

We even browsed the site today and immediately found several compositions that need to be studied and with which we can work. This archive does not allow these songs to die with the performers. This is a huge advantage for our entire culture. Everyone has their own way for using it. Someone will study these compositions and try to adhere to rules and norms, in someone they will inspire creativity and experimenting, this is a personal matter for each artist, but the fact that this project exists is wonderful.

You can listen to the full interview in the podcast.