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root salad f28 DagaDana


Sisters in music, the Polish/Ukrainian duo harness technology for tradition, finds Ton Maas


sion. Since Dana and her family moved to Poland and settled in Wroclaw four years ago, the four of them are able to get together more often and rehearse on a reg- ular basis. A lot of practical collaboration goes into the preparation of each album project. Daga and Dana travelled around the Ukrainian countryside for weeks on end, col- lecting traditional costumes just for a photo shoot with Dominika Dyka, the results of which can be seen in the artwork for the international release of their new album.


This attention to detail is evident in everything they do, not just in the elaborate design of their album covers and packaging but also in the recording process.


The way they go about it, using all the options modern technology has to offer, gives their music a flavour that is closer to pop than to folk or ‘world’.


I


n retrospect it was unlikely that Daga Gregorowicz and Dana Vynnytska would ever meet, let alone form a band together. To begin with, they


grew up on opposite sides of the border between Poland and Ukraine, a frontier that became an even stronger barrier after Poland joined the EU in 2004.


The way they met was, in their own words, a magical story. In 2006 Dana signed up for a workshop organised by the Interna- tional Summer Jazz Academy in Cracow, far from her hometown of Lvov. Daga, on the other hand, only attended because a friend of hers had told her it might be fun. During one of the vocal classes everyone in the room was asked to improvise on a tune.


“I just happened to be present and was petrified,” says Daga, “because I knew only one or two standards and had never impro- vised in public before. So I just closed my eyes and sang from the bottom of my heart.” Dana interrupts, “She blew me away with her take on one of the most timeworn standards of all: Summertime. It was like I heard it for the first time, completely fresh,


pure and original. But I also realised she needed to learn more about music theory and would have to work on her technique. And I told her so.”


That day, Daga and Dana became best friends, knowing that the border that sepa- rated them would make it difficult to spend a lot of time together. Two years later, their luck changed when Dana successfully applied for an arts residency with the National Centre of Polish Culture, as part of a programme for students from Belarus and Ukraine. “I was so excited, I immediately phoned Daga”, Dana says with a big smile. “Dear Danusia, I have amazing news! We can meet more often now, because I will be living in Warsaw for six months.” To Dana’s utter surprise Daga replied, “So let’s form a band, just the two of us!” Dana: “I thought it was a crazy idea, but hey, it was coming from my sister in music! So I’d better be seri- ous about it.”


DagaDana started out as a trio, with double bass player Mikolaj Popieszalski, and became a quartet when Bartosz Mikolaj Nazaruk joined them on drums and percus-


ren't they worried their work might be mistaken for pop music? Daga: “Almost all the melodies on our new album Meridian 68 are traditional, but if people aren't aware of that, we don’t mind. In a way I’m even glad if they're not because it means tradition can be a living thing. We both grew up lis- tening to pop music; it’s part of our toolk- it.” To which Dana adds, “Our new album is the reflection of a very personal journey. It’s our way of paying respect to the tradi- tion that we studied thoroughly in order to understand where the music is coming from. But the musical language that we use is a modern one, informed by pop.”


A When DagaDana started recording their


latest album, Meridian 68, in April 2014, the massacre on Maidan Square in Kiev, where more than one hundred unarmed protesters were killed by snipers, had just happened. Dana, who had been taking part in the peaceful demonstration for a week in December, was depressed about the situa- tion in Ukraine and didn’t feel like giving concerts in that state of mind.


Dana recalls that “Instead we collected food and clothing to send to Kiev, because we couldn’t think of anything else we could do to help. But then I realised there was something we could do: give voice to what connects us and speak out against those who want to turn us into enemies. So we decided to record Plywe kacza po Tysyni (A duckling swims along the Tysa), a traditional song of the Lemko people that became a hymn of mourning for all those who stood for a free and independent Ukraine at Maid- an Square and lost their lives doing so.”


www.dagadana.pl/en/ F


Photo: Treti Pivni


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