Seven girls, 15 musical instruments and an incredible mix of music and performance – spawned by Kyiv’s Dakh Contemporary Art Centre – they are the Dakh Daughters, actresses turned freak-cabaret band, and are one of the most unusual, provocative and electric acts in Ukraine today.
Seven actresses took musical instruments into their hands in order to create life-affirming performance about love, freedom and beauty which at the end of the day – will save the world. Dakh Daughters create an atmosphere of a French saloon, where Mireille Mathieu befriends Marilyn Manson. On occasion, armed with full set of strings, keyboards and percussions, the women shake the audience with a roar in the manner of Laibach, but can swiftly change anger for kindness, turning into fun-loving Hollywood beauties of the 1950’s that dream of tropical vacation in the Caribbean.
Just imagine, seven young women made-up to look like actresses from black-and-white silent movies with bleached faces, smoky eyes and bloody-red lips. Yet they are anything but silent, storming the stage playing numerous musical instruments, singing, screaming, dancing and doing all sorts of crazy stunts on stage making a spectacular performance that leaves you taken aback! The nature of the phenomenon of Dakh Daughters lies in their name – they are daughters of the theatre, actresses in the first place, meaning their every musical composition is a mini-performance.
Eurosonic Noorderslag in the Netherlands, Opener in Poland, Züricher Theater Spektakel in Switzerland, FMM Sines in Portugal, Pohoda in Slovakia, Rudolstadt and Fusion in Germany, Belluard Bollwerk in Switzerland, Bergen International in Norway, Wiener Festwochen in Austria, Les Vieilles Charrues in France, Festival OFF d’Avignon in France, Hebbel am Uffer theater (HAU) Berlin Germany, Brechtfestival Augsburg Germany, Gogolfest in Ukraine, Monfort Theatre Paris France, Rasa Utrecht The Netherlands, and more in France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Estonia, Belgium.
It all started in October 2012 when Dakh theatre performers were packing suitcases in preparation of a tour to Paris. Anya Nikitina, who has been strumming a guitar during the rehearsal, says she had a dream of performing in a French cabaret: “I thought we were lucky enough to all play different instruments so why not prepare some sort of a performance and show it in Paris.” What started as a one-night project quickly grew, and within a couple of weeks it had become a serious creative work involving seven Dakh actresses. When they showed the results to Vlad Troitsky, the founder and director of Dakh theatre, he immediately declared it a “freak cabaret”.
One of the Daughters, Tetyana Havryluyk, says the label summed up the style they were aiming for. “Freak-cabaret occupies a space on the border of theatre and music and lets us cross all possible limits in genres and styles. The word ‘freak’ can stand for so many things – strange, whimsical, unusual and so on.” The freedom being labelled “freak” is what the girls appreciate most about their band and that freedom is evident in their performances – all my attempts to figure out who is playing what at what time is a failure.
Band member Ruslana Khazipova tells me they juggle instruments and roles. While Khazipova sits playing a drum, it turns out she can also play the double bass; Havrylyuk who plays flute, also plays the keyboard; holding her richly decorated cello is Nina Harenetska – a woman you might remember from another of Dakh’s creations, the DakhaBrakha band. The rest of the members are just as talented; Solomiya Melnyk has a professional musical and theatre education; Natalka Halanevych and Zo (Natalya Zozul) are philologists; in addition, Zo also has professional dancing skills. Nikitina says there are few bands in the world with such a number of musical instruments, vocal power and simply so many beautiful girls performing together! After getting standing ovations both at the Dakh Theatre and in Paris, the girls realised they had created something so interesting and driving, they needed to continue.