Ljova and the Kontraband


Ljova and the Kontraband photo by Marian Carrasquero / NPR - click to download high resolution photo
photo ©Marian Carrasquero / NPR


August 5 2021 Caramoor Festival for the Arts (Westchester, NY)
rescheduled from 2020 — our Caramoor debut and reunion!

For details, see the schedule.
Check out the archive of past dates.

New music, old magic. If genre-defying music was a genre, Ljova and the Kontraband would probably defy that too. For if bringing together influences from classical, klezmer, tango, jazz and Gypsy music has been done before, nobody does it quite like this. Moscow-born, New York-based composer, arranger and violist Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin writes and plays music that evokes forgotten memories of things you think you’ve heard before but haven’t, while dreaming of Bartok and Piazzolla trundling through an early-morning Hungarian mist in a three-legged race to the village dance at the end of time. The ensemble features his close collaborators on accordion, bass and percussion, as well as the vocal of Inna Barmash.

In 2017, Ljova and the Kontraband recorded a Tiny Desk Concert for National Public Radio. The ensemble has made appearances throughout the USA, and has also debuted in Canada, the United Kingdom and Taiwan. Ljova and the Kontraband have performed at venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Ottawa Chamberfest, the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was the opening musical guest of the Sundance@BAM Film Festival.  Among others, the Kontraband has collaborated with filmmaker Sean McPhillips on his film “Cupcake” (premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, and performed live at Lincoln Center), and with Aszure Barton & Artists on the dance piece “Busk”, performed live at Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Their second album, “NO REFUND ON FLOWERS”, was released in 2014. The Kontraband’s debut CD, “MNEMOSYNE”, featured special guests Frank London, William Schimmel, Uli Geissendoerfer, Alon Yavnai and Marcus Rojas.

For all booking inquiries, please contact booking@Ljova.com.


— Ljova (viola & fadolin)
— Inna Barmash (vocal)
— Patrick Farrell (accordion)
— Mathias Kunzli (percussion)
— Jordan Morton (bass)

[Presenters – please visit the arts presenters page for tech rider, high-resolution photos, residency activities, links & other downloads.]


— Visit the Ljova and the Kontraband YouTube Playlist


Justin Davidson, New York Newsday
This eclectic violist’s music is anything but plain folk.  [There is] nobody quite like the polymath Lev [‘Ljova’] Zhurbin…The music he writes and plays is full of Brahmsian tone, Bartok lines, hiccupping Hungarian rhythms, Klezmer soul and the sexy plaintiveness of tango and the blues. (Read full review)

The New Yorker
richly textured palette featuring Eastern European and Gypsy melodies beautifully offset by Latin-tinged rhythms

Bill Bragin, NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center
Ljova and the Kontraband play genre-defying music beautifully and soulfully. Organically bringing together influences ranging from classical and new music, klezmer, tango, jazz, Gypsy music and more, their music is smartly original, steeped in tradition while moving those traditions forward. Ljova is also a savvy promoter who continually demonstrates that independent artists can effectively use new models of music distribution and social networking to bring their music to the public on their own terms.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR Music
All too often, “fusion” is a rightfully dread-inducing term to describe music that tries to occupy several spheres at once, usually unsuccessfully. So let’s not use that label on the brilliant, wide-ranging music of Ljova and the Kontraband, a group that embraces Western classical, jazz and an array of international styles including tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music. These top-flight musicians, who hail from Russia, Lithuania, the U.S. and Switzerland, pile all of these sounds atop of each other with great glee, and emerge with creations that alight on totally new and exciting terrain. (Watch our NPR Tiny Desk Concert!)

Alexander Gelfand, Jazziz
…This past January, the Russian-born, New York City-based violist Ljova and his Vjola Contraband drew a full house at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, forcing fans to stand three-deep at the room’s swanky, dimly lit bar. Rarely have I seen so many young, attractive people pay to hear a band with no less than two violists not to mention an accordion player, an acoustic bassist, and a percussionist who bears a striking resemblance to Sideshow Bob…. The off-kilter rhythms he favors recall the asymmetrical dance beats of central and southeastern Europe, where time signatures tend to look like hat sizes (7/8, 13/8, 15/16). They tug and pull at you in strange and mysterious ways, as do Ljova’s melodies, which have the tuneful, emotive quality of good pop. (Read full review)

Ilona Oltuski,  GetClassical / Blog Critics
Review and interview: Ljova and the Kontraband at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust


Special guests & collaborators:

— Mike Savino (bass and banjo, 2006-2012)

— Ash / Æ – (vocal/instrumental duet)
— Aszure Barton & Artists (dancers)
— Kinan Azmeh (clarinet)
— Brooklyn Rider (string quartet)
— Ron Caswell (tuba)
— Taylor Bergren-Chrisman (bass)
— Mike Block (cello)
— Miki-Sophia Cloud (violin)
— Alexis Cuadrado (bass)
— Sarah Darling (viola)
— EmiKa (laptop & remixing)
— Freefall (dancers)
— Johnny Gandelsman (violin)
— Uli Geissendoerfer (piano)
— Shem Guibbory (violin)
— Zoe Guigueno (bass)
— John Hadfield (percussion)
— Julien Labro (accordion)
— Frank London (trumpet & flugelhorn)
— John Maloney (director)
— Sami Merdinian (violin)
— Shoko Nagai (accordion & piano)
— Parker String Quartet
— Reuben Radding (bass)
— Marcus Rojas (tuba)
— Juan Pablo Jofre Romarion (bandoneon)
— Robin Ruizendaal (shadow puppet artist)
— Merlin Shepherd (clarinet)
— Talvin Singh (vocal percussion)
— Rich Stein (percussion)
— Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)
— Michael Ward-Bergeman (accordion)
— Mary Wilson — of The Supremes (vocal)
— Min-Tze Wu (violin)
— Sunteck Yao (mime)
— Ronn Yedidia (accordion)
— Alon Yavnai (piano)


(go back to upcoming dates)

11.21.19 Proctors Theater (Schenectady, NY)
04.14.19 Barbes (Brooklyn NY)
06.14.18 Live under the Archway, Dumbo (Brooklyn NY)
11.30-12.10.17 BenFeng Arts Evolution Festival (Tainan, Taiwan) — collaboration with Min-Tze Wu, Sunteck Yao, director John Maloney, shadow puppeteer Robin Ruizendaal and ensemble
02.12-13.17 Friends of Music at Dumbarton Oaks Gardens (Washington, DC) – with special guests Kinan Azmeh and Sami Merdinian
12.3-4.2016 Musical Bridges Around The World Festival (San Antonio, TX)
03.06.16 National Sawdust (Brooklyn, NY)
01.18.16 Uncle Vanya Cafe (Manhattan, NY)
01.16.16 Zlatne Uste Golden Festival (Brooklyn, NY)
08.16.15 Bethlehem Hebrew Congregation (Bethlehem, NH)
08.15.15 Bethlehem Colonial Theater (Bethlehem, NH) double bill with the North Country Chamber Players, all-Ljova program
08.14.15 Sumner-Knight Chapel (Keene, NH) presented by Keene Music Festival
07.28.15 St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts (Ottawa, Canada) presented by Ottawa Chamberfest
05.23.15 Flushing Library (Queens, NY) presented by Carnegie Hall
12.07.14 Barbes (Brooklyn, NY) – with Kinan Azmeh & Johnny Gandelsman
10.05.14 Private House Concert (New York, NY)
07.06.14 Grafton Music Festival (Grafton, VT)
07.05.14 Keene Music Festival (Keene, NH)
05.11.14 National Opera Center (New York, NY) – double bill with Banda Magda, as part of the inaugural parallel concerts – read more here
03.09.14 Chutzpah! Festival (Vancouver, BC, Canada)
01.18.14 Zlatne Uste Golden Festival (Brooklyn, NY)
11.03.13 Dupuy’s Landing House Concert (Chelsea, NY)
10.26.13 WOMEX Conference Official Showcase (Cardiff, Wales, UK)
10.24.13 Burnett’s Hill Chapel (Martletwy, Wales, UK)
10.23.13 Jamboree (London, UK)
10.21.13 Barbès (Brooklyn, NY)
09.01.13 Parksville USA Music Fesival (Parksville, NY)
05.01.13 Littlefield (Brooklyn, NY) – double bill with Brooklyn Rider
04.24.13 UBS Atrium Series — presented by Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (Weehawken, NJ)
01.05.13 Brooklyn Museum — presented by Carnegie Hall & Target (Brooklyn, NY)
10.04.12 Symphony Space (New York, NY)
07.30.12 Shorefront Y (Brooklyn, NY)
07.07.12 Rite of Summer Music Festival (Governors Island, NY)
03.30.12 Club Drom (Lower East Side, NY)
03.23.12 University of Vermont, Lane Series (Burlington, VT)
11.09.11 Central Library, Dwecklectic series (Brooklyn, NY)
10.25.11 Barbes (Brooklyn, NY)
09.16.11 Barbes (Brooklyn, NY)
06.02.11 JCC in Manhattan (New York, NY) – 5th Anniversary Show, with guests, dancers from Aszure Barton and Artists
92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Auditorium (New York, NY)
Four educational concerts for 3000+ New York City school children
04.06.11 Joe’s Pub (New York, NY) – double bill with Ash (Æ)
04.03.11 Ditmas Acoustic (Brooklyn, NY) – double bill with Ash (Æ)
04.03.11 Cinema Arts Centre (Huntington, NY)
04.02.11 Unison Arts Center (New Paltz, NY)
04.01.11 Club Helsinki Hudson (Hudson, NY)
Baryshnikov Arts Center — Ljova and the Kontraband appear as part of “BUSK”, a new work by choreographer Aszure Barton, with live music by Ljova and the Kontraband (New York, NY)
10.13.10 THE STONE (New York, NY)
7.24.10 BROOKLYN BRIDGE PARK (Brooklyn, NY)
Ljova and the Kontraband Residency at
the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY)
5.12.10 LITTLEFIELD (Brooklyn, NY) – triple bill with Zyklos, Twice as Bright
3.08.10 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY) – double bill with Barmaljova
1.12.10 JOE’S PUB (New York, NY) – double bill with Jofre Romarion New Tango Quartet
11.21.09 GOWANUS STUDIO SPACE – for the release of Habitus 05: Moscow (Brooklyn, NY)
10.24.09 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
9.10.09 MERKIN CONCERT HALL (with Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Shanghai Quartet, and Nauman Lasharie) (New York, NY)
7.23.09 THE JEWISH MUSEUM (New York, NY)
5.4.09 KENNEDY CENTER Millennium Stage (Washington, DC) [watch the performance online!]
4.27.09 CORNELIA STREET CAFE (Greenwich Village, NY)
3.8.09 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY). with special guests Æ
2.28.09 TRIBECA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (New York, NY) – collaboration with Austrian Lightpainter Eva Flatscher
1.8.09 MEHANATA (New York, NY) – double bill with Frank London Band

12.13.08 THE STONE (New York, NY)
9.28.08 JOE’S PUB — CD RELEASE (New York, NY)
8.18.08 UKRAINIAN NATIONAL HOME (Ljova’s 30th birthday celebration, New York NY)
7.11.08 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
6.12-6.16.08 WALKERSPACE, Joyce SoHo (collaboration with Freefall Dance)
6.5.08 WORLD YACHT PETRUSHKA ON THE HUDSON (charity benefit, New York NY)
5.10.08 DROM (East Village, NY)
03.08.08 BARBES (with special guest Rob Kendt)
1.5.08 JOE’S PUB (New York, NY) – double bill with Brooklyn Rider
12.6.07 Ukrainian National Home Restaurant – triple bill with the Luminescent Orchestrii, and the World on a String Band
10.14.07 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY) – double bill with the Parker String Quartet
08.11.07 JOE’S PUB (New York, NY)
08.3.07 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
7.26.07 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Sculpture Garden (New York, NY)
7.12.07 ARIUM(Meatpacking district, NYC)
7.6.07 Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA)
6.1.07 BAMCafe, Brooklyn Academy of Music. Opening musical act of the Sundance Film Festival @BAM
5.31.07 Radio: WNYC’S Soundcheck with John Schaefer – [Recording of the show] 3.8.07 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
1.17.07 JOE’S PUB (New York, NY) – double bill with Romashka
8.22.06 BARBES (Brooklyn, NY)
7.12.06 JOE’S PUB (New York, NY) – double bill with the Luminescent String Orchestrii
6.16.06 OM FACTORY (New York, NY) – Kontraband Debut Show!June

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