Lucid Culture


Sadistic Lullabies: Mariana Sadovska and Borderland at Joe’s Pub, NYC 5/22/08

Popular Ukrainian actress Mariana Sadovska is a passionate advocate and goodwill ambassador for the eerie, gypsyish folksongs from the remote villages of her native land. What was most striking about her show at Joe’s Pub last night was how relevant she made them for an urban, non-Ukrainian-speaking audience. Many of these songs involve conjury – for fertility, the change of seasons, the harvest – and unsurprisingly have an otherworldly, magical feel to them. Accompanying herself on Indian harmonium and backed by her terrific jazz trio Borderland (German natives Jarry Singla on piano, Sebastian Gramss on bass and Peter Kahlenborn on drums), Sadovska delivered the songs dramatically and fervently. Moving in a split second from a whisper to a wail, crying, growling and, once in a while, shrieking, she showed off a vocal style more evocative of Nina Hagen or Diamanda Galas’ recent work than, say, Lydia Lunch. There were also echoes of Bjork and, on one long, trancelike number, vintage Patti Smith circa Radio Ethiopia: clearly, Sadovska has listened widely in creating her utterly individual, idiosyncratic arrangements of this material.

Sadovska learned it the old-fashioned way, going from house to house a la Allen Lomax, asking for songs. As she told it, villagers welcomed her and even took her in, as if seeing in her a new messenger for their centuries-old songs. While her often hypnotic, gypsy-jazz versions likely stray considerably from their roots, her passion for the music is contagious: it ought to resonate with fans of the current gypsy music craze. And crazed much of it is: among the songs she and the band played tonight were a lullaby in which a mother prepares her newborn child for the day she sics him or her on the enemy, a fertility song with a somewhat familiar, chromatic gypsy melody and all kinds of tricky time changes, a long, eerie witch’s incantation and a love song with an unlikely melody which she and the band used as an encore after the audience wouldn’t let her leave the stage without one.

Playing prepared piano, Singla went inside the instrument to pull and hammer on the strings to add strangeness. Gramss bowed and plucked his bass in the highest registers for a violin effect while Kahlenborn propelled the unit with considerable fervor. Although the show started slowly on what seemed a slightly contrived note for a couple of songs, the final three-quarters of an hour was fascinating and frequently entrancing to experience.

May 23, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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