It is a huge honor to be recognized amidst a treasure chest of 850 applicants, and to be making our European debut. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the very first curators — Rachel Sokolow (booked our first show!), Sxip Shirey & Bill Bragin (our 2nd show!), and Olivier Conan (3rd show!) — as well as many others who have booked us, encouraged us, collaborated with us, influenced and inspired us further.
It is also a great honor to perform at WOMEX because our music represents an intentionally vague approach to musical traditions. All five of us come from different places culturally– Russia, Lithuania, USA, Switzerland — and all of us come from different musical backgrounds — classical, jazz, folk and world, among others. Our music is informed by several musical traditions, and we use them as only a departure point for something new.
In my work as a musical arranger, I’ve worked closely with music and musicians from Argentina (Osvaldo Golijov & Gustavo Santaolalla), China (Wu Man), Mexico (Alondra de la Parra, Natalia Lafourcade, Ely Guerra), Iran (Kayhan Kalhor), India (Asha Bhosle & Kronos Quartet) and Romania (arranging for Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, as well as Brooklyn Rider). The experience of working with musical giants from many different countries & cultures has created a musical language of its own, free of genre and rich on possibilities, melding traditions without fear of any consequences.
While our instrumentation resembles that of an Eastern European village band, Ljova and the Kontraband is a lab for experiment. We’ve collaborated with filmmakers, dancers, string ensembles and visual artists, and actively seek opportunities to perform in non-traditional venues in a collaborative way. Though I have written most of the music, rehearsals and set-lists are very democratic, and each musician has veto power.
Our performances are portraits of what a New York musical experience can be, running between work and various band rehearsals to performing at concerts in venues major & intimate; at weddings, funerals, dance classes, recording sessions, nursing homes; listening to the music pouring out from your neighbor’s iPod on the subway, trying to find a quiet place to listen to the voices inside your head… Creating music with Ljova and Kontraband is a joyous way to explore music & life experience together.
It’s going to be a fun night in Cardiff – get ready!
Check out our YouTube video gallery, and stream our debut album below:
(We’ll have a brand new album to unveil this fall, too!)
see you soon —