DakhaBrakha to bring Ukrainian music and anti-war messages to Schenectady

DakhaBrakha is at Music Haven in Schenectady's Central Park tonight. (Matthew B. Thompson)

DakhaBrakha is at Music Haven in Schenectady's Central Park tonight. (Matthew B. Thompson)

DakhaBrakha’s sound is hard to pin down but its message is not: “Stop Putin.”

It’s a message the band brought to Music Haven in 2016 and one that it’ll bring to Central Park tonight with a renewed urgency.

The band was formed in 2004 by avant-garde stage director Vladyslav Troitskyi and includes Nina Garenetska, Marko Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko and Olena Tsybulska. The quartet combines traditional Indian, Arabic, African and Australian instrumentation with powerful and at times ethereal vocals. One can hear a bit of jazz, rock and hip-hop in the band’s songs, each mixed with its take on Ukrainian folk.

Donning tall, boxy hats and richly decorated costumes, DakhaBrakha began performing around the world a decade ago. Its high-energy, overtly theatrical shows were often laced with humor. On this tour, the tone is more somber, with band members commenting in between songs about the war in Ukraine. There are also projected backdrops featuring videos of a devastated Ukraine.

“Usually we of course had fun onstage and we have this humor, but not in this program with every minute, people dying in your country,” Halanevych told NPR in an interview earlier this year. “So it’s really impossible to feel this joy of music. So that’s why it’s really complicated to find this balance between art and political expression. But we try to do it.”

DakhaBrakha, which translates as “give/take” in old Ukrainian, has been touring in the United States since shortly after Russian troops invaded the country earlier this year. They’ve not only helped to make cultural connections between this country and theirs but also raised money for Ukrainian relief efforts.

“. . . It’s a big tragedy for our country, and we feel it every moment,” Halanevych told NPR. “A lot of people in Ukraine and around the world, they tell us it’s our best possibility to be useful and helpful, is to be on stage and to show people our culture, music and to tell our story and to tell the story of our country.”

Tonight at Music Haven, proceeds from food sales will benefit local Ukrainian refugees through the Ukrainian-American Cultural Center.

The evening, which is a Tribute to Ukraine, will also feature appearances by Viktor Holovaschenko, president of the Ukrainian-American Cultural Center (UACC), Dr. Andrij Baran, chair, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Capital District; local Ukrainian religious leaders; members of 518Ukrainians/AID UKRAINE NOW; and representatives of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate.

Following DakhaBrakha’s performance, there will be a candlelight vigil, followed by words of hope and the Ukrainian national anthem.
Music Haven’s Producing Artistic Director Mona Golub sees the show not only as a joy to present but also as a responsibility, especially as the series’ motto is “traveling the world one concert at a time.”

“Meaningful cultural exchange involves crossing borders, breaking down barriers and celebrating our shared humanity, through good as well as challenging times,” Golub said.

The music begins at 7 p.m. with a performance by the band Korinya, which contextualizes the Ukrainian village band tradition with modern life in the ever-widening diaspora. The concession stand, which opens at 6 p.m., will offer Ukrainian dishes including potato and cheese pierogies sautéed with butter and caramelized onions and kielbasa and kraut. For more information visit

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Schenectady


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