Music Haven’s director Mona Golub doesn’t usually book a band twice, but when Ukraine’s internationally renowned band DakhaBrakha extended this year’s North American tour, she didn’t hesitate to bring them back to Schenectady after a “mesmerizing” concert in 2016.
“Under the circumstances, given what’s going on in Ukraine right now, I could not resist the opportunity to bring them back,” she said.
Thursday’s event will be a celebration and affirmation of Ukrainian culture, pairing DakhaBrakha’s genre-defying music with pierogies, vendors and a candlelight vigil concluding with the Ukrainian national anthem. Funds raised through food and raffle ticket sales will go directly to the Ukrainian-American Cultural Center, which helped coordinate the free event.
When Golub reached out to Viktor Holovashchenko, president of the UACC, looking to support a local organization helping refugees with the DakhaBrakha concert, he was excited because her goals aligned with the center’s mission.
“We support Ukrainian culture, promote it and help connect American culture to Ukrainian culture in the Capital Region,” Holovashchenko said. “At the same time, we also help new immigrants and refugees with adopting to American life, and we help them a little bit financially and with information.”
At the concert, UACC members will work the food stations and resource tables with information on how to help the war effort, either inwardly by supporting or sponsoring refugees or outwardly by donating medical supplies directly to Ukraine.
To Holovashchenko, arts and culture events like DakhaBrakha’s North American tour are keeping the war present in countries otherwise removed from it.
“Everybody’s getting tired of the war. It’s very hard psychologically,” Holovashchenko said. “People just want to live in safety, and they don’t really want to think too much about a lot of evil that is happening in the world. I think Ukrainian artists are really reminding the world how lucky we are.”
These artists are also helping preserve Ukraine’s culture in a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated Russia and Ukraine are “two countries, one people,” dismissing Ukrainian history, and the war has demolished cultural institutions like museums, libraries and theaters. DakhaBrakha’s music draws from Ukrainian folklore, and the quartet’s elaborate costuming is inspired by traditional garments.
“This is an opportunity for us to celebrate the resilience of the culture and the history that is very real and is very alive and does most certainly exist,” Golub said.
Holovashchenko said he’s touched by the Ukrainian flags of support he sees on his drives and the kind words of support from people in the Capital Region, and it will deepen the meaning behind DakhaBrakha’s music.
“Because of the kindness of non-Ukrainian-Americans in the region, they will be very interested to come just to see Ukrainian culture and actually understand that message that the war is going on, and we need to continue helping,” Holovashchenko said.