DakhaBrakha Brings Ukraine to New York’s Niagara County

Performance by Ukrainian ensemble at Artpark near Niagara Falls made a momentous occasion even more monumental

Ukrainian Ensemble DakhaBrakha performing a live soundtrack to a classic 1930 silent film, Earth, at Artpark, Lewiston, New York July 14, 2022 (Image: Alisa B. Cherry)

The combination of a stunning locale, an exceptional ensemble and music with a message made for a remarkable evening at Artpark in Lewiston, New York, near Niagara Falls. 

A stunning combination of audio and visual delights in the park’s magnificent main stage theater was beautifully expressed with both passion and purpose when the Ukrainian quartet known as DakhaBrakha made a stop as part of its ongoing American tour. The concept was intriguing; a band that utilizes traditional instrumentation in a captivating way, the quartet, dressed in native garb, provided a live soundtrack to a classic 1930 silent film and synched the score with absolute precision.

Ukrainian Ensemble DakhaBrakha performing a live soundtrack to a classic 1930 silent film, Earth, at Artpark, Lewiston, New York July 14, 2022 (Image: Alisa B. Cherry)

Of course, given the horrors that are taking place in Ukraine due to Russian aggression, the very presence of a Ukrainian band was significant in itself. Clearly, the death and destruction plaguing their homeland was never far from their focus. Significantly, the film, a classic of the silent film era titled Earth dealt with the effect of the Bolshevik revolution and its effect on the rural population of those areas of Eastern Europe which is now present day Ukraine.

The film is flush with symbolism, detailing death, new life and nature’s rebirth as part of a natural cycle. The arrival of a mechanical plow that the populace could utilize to harvest the land has a marked effect on their agricultural existence, along a new philosophy of collectism that adhered to Marxist precepts. 

Naturally, the themes find a common bond with Putin’s present aggressive ambitions, a connection that was never far from mind. The musicians represent their nation, and their tour, the music they make and the film itself make a decided impression that only an emphatic artistic statement is capable of conveying. In fact, the message transcends the music even in the midst of a truly powerful performance.

Ukrainian Ensemble DakhaBrakha performing a live soundtrack to a classic 1930 silent film, Earth, at Artpark, Lewiston, New York July 14, 2022 (Image: Alisa B. Cherry)

That said, a backdrop screen that read “No War – Stop Putin” made that message quite clear.

Still, for those simply content to enjoy the concert, there was plenty of room for absolute enjoyment. DakhaBrakha blends subtlety and finesse, using tone and texture to convey a sound that’s soft and seductive one moment, underscoring tension and trepidation the next. The combination of sights and sounds was so seamless and in sync in fact that the nuances in the narrative were conveyed with a drama and dynamic that literally brought the images to life.

So too, it’s a credit to Artpark president Sonia Clark and her entire team that made the presentation possible. Their venue provides a lovely garden-like environment with an outdoor stage (where we caught Tedeschi Trucks and Los Lobos two days earlier) and the beautiful auditorium where the aforementioned performance took place, as well as art installations, nature trails and learning facilities. It’s a wonderful treasure for a city adjacent to the magnificence of Niagara Falls, and in fact, draws its audience from throughout Western New York. Suffice it to say, few venues of this kind are quite so idyllic.

NO WAR… STOP PUTIN… Ukrainian Ensemble DakhaBrakha receiving a standing ovation after performance at Artpark, Lewiston, New York July 14, 2022 (Image: Alisa B. Cherry)

As for the concert itself, the event and the environs found a natural symmetry, leaving the audience with a greater sense of appreciation and understanding. The connection between the artist and the audience was absolutely enforced by ambiance, atmosphere and the feeling that everyone present embraced a common bond. The discussion that took place afterwards allowed the musicians to express their appreciation and share their sentiments, but it was the setting that enhanced the dialogue and brought the audience to offer a standing ovation. 

In a very real sense, the salute reflected the spirit of shared humanity that enveloped a common cause. 

 

VIDEO: DakhaBrakha Full Performance on KEXP

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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