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Monday, January 19, 2015

Aram Bajakian and Julia Uleha - Dálava (sanasar, 2014) ****

By Paul Acquaro

Dálava is an ambitious - and it seems - very personal project by husband and wife team guitarist Aram Bajakian and vocalist Julia Ulehla. It's a song cycle set to fragments and stanzas of poetry and verse recorded by Ulehla's great-grandfather Vladimir Úlehla in eastern Europe at the start of the 20th century. While the poems are set to music inspired by Moravian folk songs, they are performed with a free jazz ethos that straddles a line between folk and avant-garde.

The music is both ethereal and hard hitting. Bajakian's guitar slithers between sounds and scales that sets up at times a haunting atmosphere. Ulehla conveys the joys and struggle captured in the old songs. Though sung in Czech, the translations of the lyrics are printed in the CD case and a reading of them in English helps to deepen the listening experience. Timeless and to the point, the existential angst and small pleasures of life are laid out to the world again in the music Bajakian has composed:

'Eh, love, love, well, you're never stable, like water between the banks. Water flows, love ends, like dew on a clover'  - (Ej, lásko, lásko)
Ah, my god, how I have been wronged, but to who can I complain when I have no parents? In the cemetery in Strážnice there is a little bush, and there rests my old father. In the cemetery in Strážnice there is a gray dove, and there rests my dear mother.  - (Ach, bože muj)

Lyrics aside, the tunes are further brought to life by the group. Joining Bajakian and Uleha is Tom Swafford on violin, Skye Steeke on violin and Shanir Blumenkranz on bass and gimibri. You may recognize some of these names from some of Bajakian's other recordings on the blog - most particularly Kef and Axbraxas. Be rest assured their downtown ethos is fully intact and they interject the right amount of support and irreverence into the already evocative arragements. 

Be sure to check out this album, it is a refreshing take folk music, comprised of time tinted memories and remembered sounds set in a modern context. Just enjoy. 


Stef said...

Now that we're at it, another fantastic albums with Moravian folk songs is "Morava" by bassists George Mraz and sung by Zuzana Lapčíková. Worth checking out.