I always sign up to work the live shows at the Hop, because I love getting the chance to see and hear live music. Sometimes I know something about the groups that are coming, and other times I know nothing. DakhaBrakha fell into the second category. This meant that I probably should have looked them up, so that I could tell patrons something relevant if they had any questions. However, in typical last-minute college student fashion, I didn’t. So, when a man approached and asked me, “Who’s playing tonight, and what kind of group are they?” I told him “DhakaBrakha. I think they’re a Turkish folk group.” Though I had gotten the side of the world right (they are actually from Kiev, Ukraine), the man informed me that as he spoke Turkish, their name did not even resemble a Turkish name and unless they had chosen a name out of a random generator they were probably not a Turkish group. I quickly turned around and read the poster advertising the performance behind me and said, “You’re right sir, they are actually a Ukrainian group.”
Even though I knew even less than I should have known about DahkaBrakha before the performance, I can promise that I will never forget them, or confuse them with a Turkish group, ever again. From the second they walked on stage, I knew they were something special. First off, they were wearing what I assume were traditional Ukrainian dresses (except for the one man, who was unfortunately not wearing a dress to match the three women) that were floor length, bright orange and white, with floral-esque designs. All three women were also wearing black fur hats that extended three feet over their heads and resembled Marge Simpson’s infamous hairdo. From all the shows I’ve seen at the Hop over the past two and a half years, these were by far the coolest outfits I had ever seen anyone perform in. But the coolness didn’t stop there. DakhaBrahka’s sound was like nothing I had ever heard before. See, once I found out they were Ukrainian I was expecting a traditional folk group. I’ve had some experience with traditional Eastern European singing techniques as the children’s choir I used to sing in did a few collaborations with Kitka, a San Francisco based all-women’s Eastern European style a cappella group. So I just expected a performance like one Kitka would give with a few more instruments. Ah the ignorance of the innocent is so charming.
Of course, the Ukrainian singing tradition was at the heart of DahkaBrahka’s sound, but that was just the foundation. They were jazzy and bluesy and all around downright funky. I remember for one song feeling like I kept switching back and forth between sipping a martini while wearing a slinky dress in a jazz club, to dancing around a bonfire while waving a tambourine over my head. Throughout the show they kept everyone on their toes. At one point they did the most realistic imitations of animals I have ever heard, and then in the next song they did a rap that rivaled anything Jay-Z could do. Maybe it all sounds a little disjointed, but with the common singing techniques present in each song, everything flowed together perfectly. I can say, without any hesitation, that this was the best show I have ever seen at the Hop. And I think most of the audience felt the same way. DakhaBrakha got the fastest standing ovation I have ever seen. The second the cellist put down her bow the crowd all leapt to their feet. They played an encore, and I wish their encore had never ended, because they were so good I didn’t want them to stop. And though they did have to stop playing eventually, I’ve kept on listening to them so much over the past week that all my suggested YouTube videos are now in Ukrainian. Which is probably a good thing, as I’ll never again confuse Ukrainian with Turkish.
About the Author
Josephine Cormier ’17
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Hopkins Center for the Arts House Manager