By Izzy Yellen
After an exciting and diverse season, this year’s World Music Series came to a close on Wednesday, April 22, with world music quartet DakhaBrakha. Although all four members live in Kyiv, Ukraine, they consider their genre world music due to its influences and instruments from all over the globe. By incorporating these types of music, they create a dense yet refined sound that is simultaneously beautiful and chaotic.
The most incredible aspect of this concert was that there was so much going on, but never at any point did I feel overwhelmed with all of the layers or different types of sound. For each song, it was not unusual for each member to play two or more instruments, in addition to singing. All of the musicians were able to create music on their own and together without the music getting out of hand — a controlled chaos.
While the instrumental facet of the concert was intriguing, the vocals — as individuals and as an ensemble — were what really pulled me in. Each member had their own unique voice that was easy to distinguish, but they also easily mixed together to create a rich and complex timbre.
The male voice was usually growly and assertive, but sometimes delicate in the falsetto range. This contrasted greatly with the female voices, which were either soulful, speech-like, throaty or one of many other timbres, typically changing with every song. This made for an interesting set list that kept the band and the audience fully engaged.
The way the four vocalists blended together and worked as one instrument was absolutely marvelous. With slight changes and adding or dropping voices, the sound transformed frequently, but always into something beautiful. Many parts of the songs featured exposed vocals with little instrumental background, shining even more light on this unusual, but pleasing collective sound.
The instrumental backgrounds and features did not seem like they would pair up well with the often relaxed, melodious vocals, but the two went hand in hand. The percussive barrage contrasted greatly with the vocals. Hearing them come together created an intensity and beauty that resonated with me as well as the rest of the audience, causing people to either dance in their seats or sit breathless in motionless awe.
At other times, the instruments were more laid back with a spiritual feel. They were ethereal-sounding, similar to the vocals. These sounds filled the room, but were never too loud, unlike the busy activity during other points. The quartet had a great sense of when to bring out certain parts in the music and when to change the nature of the vocals or instrumentals.
This was one of the top ten concerts I have ever seen. DakhaBrakha was full of talent, knew how to put on a great show, and created music and an experience that really moved me. After leaving Harper Hall, I heard non-stop chatter about how amazing the concert was, as well as speechless, smiling friends approaching me to share their excitement. Lawrence University cannot welcome them back soon enough.