The last time the Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha performed at Freight & Salvage in 2019, their homeland was in a grinding conflict due to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the eastern Donbas provinces. In the ensuing four years, a bad situation turned into an existential struggle, and the spectacular folk-world combo returns to Berkeley for performances Saturday and Sunday with tales to tell from the 2022 invasion.
In Kyiv, when Russia launched the Feb. 24 invasion, the musicians scattered as they sought safety, but by mid-March they’d reassembled in France for a series of solidarity concerts. Known for infusing raucous traditional music collected from rural villages with a cosmopolitan mélange of instruments and influences, DakhaBrakha has come to play a frontline role in Ukraine’s fight for cultural independence. It’s a campaign waged across international borders.
Iryna Kovalenko, vocalist, percussionist and accordionist, fled to Hungary just ahead of Russian troops, eventually rejoining her husband and daughter in Seattle, where they settled about six years ago, Marko Halanevich detailed in an email. Like his bandmates, he contributes on vocals and multiple instruments, including the goblet-drum darbuka, tabla, didjeridoo, accordion and trombone. His wife and two children are currently living in France.
Nina Garenetska, who plays cello and bass drum, is with her family in Lviv, a major city in the west far from the front lines. “But still, Russian missiles fly there from time to time,” Halanevich wrote. Olena Tsibulska, who plays bass drums, percussion, and the button-accordion garmoshka, is with her family in Kyiv, “and we all have relatives who live close to the frontline,” Halanevich wrote.
Saturday, Aug. 5, 8 p.m. Standing room-only tickets sold at the door, $44. Sunday, Aug. 6, 7 p.m., $40 for advance tickets, $44 at the door.