A Chat With DakhaBrakha – Ukraine’s Biggest Folk Band

My wife and I saw DakhaBrakha perform two years ago in Boston and we had planned to see them again last Fall (the show covid-canceled of course.) I’d describe them as a mix between The Chieftains and the The B52s – only Ukrainian. Totally love them and can’t wait for this damn Covid to end so we can see them again. Below, there’s a wonderful interview with the band’s Marko Halanevych, produced by Oskar Smith for Mouthing Off. Enjoy the read! – The Hobbledehoy

By Oskar Smith

If you haven’t yet delved into the sound of DakhaBrakha, you should. Comprised of Marko Galanevych, Olena Tsybulska, Iryna Kovalenko and Nina Garenetska, they’re a band of trained singers and ad-hoc instrumentalists who started out in 2004 as the musical accompaniment to a small theatre in Kiev and have, over the last sixteen years, toured both domestically and internationally, released five studio albums (six including their collaboration with Port Mone) and adopted styles and instruments from all over the globe, combining them with the traditional sounds and songs of Ukraine in ever more elaborate and ambiguous ways.

Not long after I joined Mouthing Off, we released an article exploring their roots and sound, with an analysis of a few choice bits from their six-album discography – if you want to get to know them a little better it’s not a terrible place to start (especially if you’re on Spotify).

Shortly after, we were contacted by DakhaBrakha’s management, who complimented us on the scope of the article and pointed out a small inaccuracy (hey in fairness, 3299 of the words were accurate). After a brief conversation, they agreed that we could send them a list of questions to be answered by Marko Halanevych. So after a flurry of excited thinking, writing and emailing, this article came about.

The translation has been edited in places for fluency, but mostly left untouched to avoid any kind of misunderstanding or muddied meaning.

What’ve you been up to since your last album?

Marko: We were engaged in quarantine. Some have already become ill with the Coronavirus, some are holding on. We managed to play a few concerts in Ukraine, but the main activity is the time we’ve spent with our families.

When the group got together in 2004, did you have any idea that they would turn into far more than a theatre accompaniment?

Marko: DakhaBrakha was founded in 2004 at the Dakh Theatre in Kyiv.
The founder can be considered the director of the theatre, Vlad Troitsky. Yes, at first we made music for theatre performances. These were musical-visual actions, where everything that sounded from the stage was our music. Later, realising that we had a lot of musical material, we started making our concerts. And this has its buzz. We liked it.

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Levity and gravity- An interview with Elle Osborne

by Alex Gallacher | Folk Music UK

In June this year, Elle Osborne released ‘If You See a Rook on Its Own, It’s a Crow’. The album was reviewed by David Morrison who declared it a “bona fide masterpiece”. In his introduction he referenced words used by David Tibet when talking about the music of Shirley Collins, it’s these words which sum up Morrison’s feelings towards this Elle’s album…“so intimate, and true, and beautiful, because it’s realwhen people feel something that is so true…and so innocent…their hearts open, their hearts respond.” I couldn’t agree more.

This interview was planned for earlier in the year following the album release but for reasons which Elle talks about below, it required a more considered response to some of the questions I asked. I’m immensely grateful for her honesty and the time she has taken with her answers, it couldn’t have been easy but as Elle says, these personal experiences also “raise issues about universal experiences, which aren’t necessarily being talked about much.” I hope this maybe starts a dialogue that needs to be taking place.

Watch her new video for The Offing, on which she talks more on below.

While many know Elle best for her album releases, she also composes for dance, and makes sound installations. These have included LongLines for the National Fishing Heritage Museum, Brigg Fair, Dark Nights celebrating 800 years of the Lincolnshire Gypsy horse fair, and Stand Apart at Fabrica gallery, Brighton.

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Why I lost faith in folk music

(TW/CW: Abuse of power, nudes, predatory behaviour) For a long time I have been disappointed in the folk music scene for the portions of underlying prejudices it possesses. Most female musicians I …

For a long time I have been disappointed in the folk music scene for the portions of underlying prejudices it possesses. Most female musicians I know have been introduced as a ‘pretty young thing’ or ‘bonny lass’ by MCs who go on to introduce male acts as ‘brimming with talent’ and ‘a spectacular musician’ (these are just examples that I have heard first hand). However, I feel it is time to unveil a more sinister element which I have only just been brave enough to acknowledge. Since I came out about my own experiences, I have had the privilege to hear the stories of other women who have been in similarly horrid experiences. But I want to begin with myself. Continue reading

Review: “Small Hours: The Long Night of John Martyn” by Graeme Thomson

By the time the mercurial, volatile singer-songwriter John Martyn heard that he had been awarded an OBE for his contribution to British music, he was in a wheelchair, having lost a leg to septicaemia compounded by a lifetime of substance abuse. He died weeks later, before he could accept the honour.

Musicians often embody a garble of contradictions, but the English-born “Scots Belgian Jew” known to his family as Iain McGeachy was a more troubled – and troubling – figure than many from the late-60s. A trailblazing guitarist, he began his artistic life in the crucible of the folk revival that also produced Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. Solid Air, one of Martyn’s most magnificent outings, was written about Drake.

But Martyn took many of his extemporising cues from jazz and he went on to embrace nascent electronics, most particularly the early, spacious effect known as echoplex. U2 guitarist the Edge may not formally concur, but Martyn fans know the Irishman’s signature guitar sound was cribbed from Martyn. John Lydon and Bob Marley were admirers, as were Portishead. (In later life, Martyn did a sterling cover of Portishead’s Glory Box.)

By the end, Martyn had been impaled on a fence post and run into a cow with his car; artistically, he was yesterday’s man, having spent the 80s making slicker, more suffocatingly produced commercial rock music, often in the company of Phil Collins. There were periods when this leading light of the maverick fringe went dark, presumably to avoid the disreputable characters with whom he surrounded himself. The searching artistry of this caustic musician’s musician went hand in glove with dissolution and damage.

To his credit, journalist and biographer Graeme Thomson, author of previous well-regarded works on Kate Bush, George Harrison and Phil Lynott, dives straight into the awfulness of the man in the preface. “He blackened the eyes and broke the spirit of women he professed to love, abandoned at least one of his children and neglected others.”

Martyn’s parents separated when he was young, with his mother remarrying; the young Martyn felt the enforced distance from his mother, Betty, keenly. “He mistrusted women, which turned him into a misogynist,” states the folk singer Beverley Martyn, who suffered his violent alcoholic rages. Her own career did not survive their two-disc partnership; she eventually essayed albums of her own again much later in life, most recently in 2014. When the marriage broke up, Martyn left her, their two biological children and Beverley’s eldest child penniless; they lived off benefits while Martyn fuelled a coke habit. He started another family, forsook them too.

Somehow, this man had the gall to sing about love. Perhaps his best-known early song, May You Never, is an open-hearted blessing: “may you never lay your head down without a hand to hold”.

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Laurence Platt: a life very well lived in the cause of the working

THE 100 years of the Communist Party are full of stories of momentous struggles on a local, national and international level — and full of the inspirational lives of CP comrades … in their trade unions and communities, in workplaces, campaigns and daily struggles of working-class people to assert themselves and shape the world.

The CPB, as part of its centenary celebrations, looking back at its history and forwards to an equally demanding future, will be publishing a book of short biographies, Red Lives.

As a taster we publish here a contribution to it about Laurence Platt who died in January 2019 — and who contributed in so many ways to working class life, culture and struggle.

LAURENCE PLATT, born 1950, lived in the Nottingham area. The Midlands community played a big part in shaping him, but Laurence was also rooted in the world’s working class, and in its varied history and culture.

Internationalism was fundamental to him. His commitment to understanding and sharing the vibrant history of the working class was in no way “academic.”

Together they formed the essence of the man, and a life so varied — with the powerful imperative of class politics running through his 50 years of activism as a musician, historian, trade union leader and Communist Party cadre.

His love of English working-class music and tradition illustrated his politics, though Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending also moved him to tears.

The 1960s folk revival saw him grow as an accomplished musician with mastery of concertina and an instantly recognisable voice.

He performed throughout his life in clubs, pubs and folk festivals around the country — or just in mates’ homes and back yards with the same joy and verve, often with long-term close friend Sharon Clancy, whose first impression was “how he moved like a dancer … a beautiful man inside and out.”

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