The ShokolaD Kupidon Gig…

Well needless to say, there was a lot going on during the weekend of the June 13-14. First of all had a charity ball that our Rotary Club was organizing on the Saturday, and secondly had to make sure everything would work out for ShokolaD on Sunday as well.

When I arrived at Kupidon, and the sound check was complete and the musicians off and about somewhere, Fedir came up to me, looked at all the equipment and said with a skeptical tone in his voice, “They just don’t get it why do they need all that stuff!” I told him not to worry, that his place would be packed…Word travels fast in Kyiv, and anyone who had been to the presentation the night before and heard that ShockolaD would be performing a second time they started to tell their friends.

Well let’s just say that the following is a translation of a review of the gig I did in Ukrainian. I was actually quite surprised that the editors didn’t butcher it a great deal, this in fact was the first serious attempt I had made at writing something for publication in Ukrainian. Given the nuances of the language I haven’t even bothered including the title here, but those of you who read Ukrainian can read the original here, complete with pics, and more pics on SUMNO.COM.

It wasn’t the first time that I had the opportunity to listen to the presentation of the new songs from the new album POKOSY of the favorites of the Fluhery of L’viv Jazz Festival, the L’viv-based group ShockolaD. In the well known cafe Kupidon last Sunday, June 14, the audience was a little different than in L’viv, but my impressions that I had from L’viv, gave me the impulse to invite different friends and acquaintances. It was an admixture of different people, some of them for the first time would listen to something new, something that they didn’t know. As it turned out, the acquaintances that I had invited represented different countries and professions – there were people from Kyiv, and Switzerland, the USA, Serbia, and Slovakia there and amongst them: journalists, businessmen, civic activists and musicians.

In general the new ShockolaD album includes eleven tracks plus one bonus track. The compositions are based on folk songs – conscientiously transformed, but, maybe it’s better to say ShockolaD-ified – with a jazz sound and electronic spices. Besides folk songs, there are poems of Serhiy Zhadan and Victor Neboraka and a bonus track to the works of the poem by Juliusz Slowatsky “Mother to son” – which was done for their Polish fans as I learned form the press materials of the group.

The electronic spicing was heard right from the beginning of the concert which opened up with Oy na Ivana. But in my opinion he audience, didn’t really understand that they came out to listen to ShockolaD-ified folk songs, that is to say ethno-jazz, until the group played Hutsuliya, an arrangement of the groups saxophone player Volodymyr Urban, where the separate parts of each of the musicians was much more exemplified. After each part the clapping was heard all the way out on Pushkinska street – said one of the Americans who had come out to the show, and had gotten there a little late, and had sat down near me.

The mood of the audience changed during the third song, Divchina – where more vocal musing existed in Dana Vynnytska’s arrangement of this piece. Some of the audience got caught up in deep thought and took delight with the different rhythm, a different taste, as it were smooth milk chocolate.

By the beginning of the fourth song, Nyvka, I noticed one thing, one of the most important of all – all were getting into the rhythm of Ihor Hnydyn and Serhiy Brydun – the drummer and bassist, and the clear sound of the keyboards being played by Anastasia Lytvynyuk and the juxtaposition of the sax and Dana’s vocal solos. I saw a friend, Ihor Kucer, an operatic tenor from Bratislava, he waved to me with a smile on his face. Who better could judge vocals, then an experienced vocalist.

After the clapping and he beginning of Nese Halya vodu not only did the style change, but also the rhythm which carried me off not to the Carpathians, but somewhere under the palms of some Caribbean island… I faded away into thought and thought a little about my previous discussions with the musicians – I am convinced that it is not in vain that all of the musicians have a musical education, but also different views on the structure of music and different world views on music – this makes their music and our folk songs interesting to us, and in general more accessible to a world audience.

When the audience clapped after each of the solos of each of the musicians in the previous songs, Dana engaged them in singing along during Verbova doshochka. It didn’t appear that difficult for those in the audience, as there were very few who did not participate, from the youngest child to adult.

And there is one other reason why I liked this concert and its performers. As musicians, they are searching for something new from within, something fresh and interesting – but they are also conscientious that there are other people, their listeners who are not only passive, but want to participate…

But the song that takes hold of every Ukrainian’s soul was the next one. “The world over they consider it theirs – But Leontovych’s Shchedryk, is our own,” said Dana. [See Carol of the Bells] When the first notes were sounded still another acquaintance of mine, also a musician and vocalist, Andriy Smaluka from the band NEMO, who at that moment had moved up closer to the musicians turned to me with the happiness of a child in his eyes and said, “That grabbed me by the soul!”

As Ihor Hnydyn, who arranges most of the material for the group, told me in an earlier discussion, “Shchedryk – is not my arrangement. It’s Volodya’s, our saxophone player – the music was lying around for seven years, before we gave it life!”

After the performance of Shchedryk each Ukrainian member of the audience, possibly, became a little prouder of their musical heritage! From the faces of all present and their clapping it could be seen – it could be heard!

The poems of Serhiy Zhadan which had earlier been heard in Kupidon, this evening were heard in a ShockolaD-ifed version. For example, his poem Slukhay, a movchy [ed. Listen, but be silent]. The quiet rhythm of the shaker and other percussion, Dana’s vocal and the completely relaxed sound of the keyboards and the mellow sound of the saxophone. The audience was completely relaxed, in the best mean of that word, but not for long.

The clapping, and the start of a funky rhythm with a peppering of saxophone and from the first words and melody the audience recognize – Chyya to dolyna. Here, like throughout the program, each of the musicians had an opportunity to be heard and show their own. Like a living organism – the “chocolates” were moving and breathing, and providing their audience with a breath of fresh air. That breath, for everyone present, opened up something new, something different – for someone it may have been ethno, for someone else – jazz, and now certainly everyone knows that this is ShockolaD!

This understanding provided one word which was repeated over and over again: ENCORE. Everyone was yelling and making noise until the musician returned to the stage.

The audience slowly started to disperse, children were trying out their musical abilities on the keyboards, fans were buying the new POKOSY album and getting autographs.

I was sitting with a friend from the USA that I had met not too long ago, Giles and his fiancee from Serbia – Isadora – both were happy and were thanking me for inviting them to the show. An old friend and civic activist sat down with us Dmytro Potekhin: “Vasyl, thank you for letting me know about the concert – it was super!” I introduced Dmytro to Giles and Isadora… At first they exchanged their opinions about the concert, and then they went on about something else. But it became apparent to me that everyone liked ShockolaD!

Oddly enough about a week later, Fedir came up to me and said, “It seems like ShockolaD was appreciated by all. Even Sveta liked them, and you know she is Riffmaster’s wife!” I guess that’s a good sign!