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17 March 2011

Kitka: A Musical Bouquet


If you are as fascinated as I am about things centuries old, you will understand my feeling of reverence about the singing group Kitka. I fell in love with them quite by accident: one day I was driving to the dentist and from the car radio came this wondrous vocal music, unlike anything I had ever heard before. Or since. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Kitka means “bouquet” in Bulgarian and Macedonian. The groups comprises from 9 to 12 (currently 8) women who sing traditional Georgian polyphony, Armenian lullabies, and folk songs of Eastern Europe. The painting above, by Niko Pirosmani, portrays a “Georgian woman with Tambourine.”

Kitka has earned international recognition for their haunting sound, which involves a driving, very strong sound quality, close harmonies, and surprising rhythms in songs that are unique in drama and emotion. I cannot listen to a Kitka performance of this simple, haunting music without crying.

Founded in 1979, Kitka began as an amateur singing group meeting to share Eastern European women’s vocal music. From there it blossomed into a professional ensemble skilled in the techniques of traditional Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian vocal styles. The songs go back many hundreds of years, and Kitka members have researched and collected tunes from Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine, as well as Eastern European Jewish and Romani (Gypsy) cultures. Original vocal settings are then created for the traditional single-line melodies.

Song content varies and includes such subjects as cradle songs and lullabies, an ox-cart driver’s lament, God’s grace revealed in the oak tree, love songs, war stories, a woman’s beauty, love abandoned, tales of adventure, even a comic song about a young man complaining about his prospective bride: “She beat up my three sisters and my mother and then threw me out the window.”

I challenge anyone to hear a Kitka performance without wanting to leap out of your seat and dance...

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1 Comments:

Blogger Isobel Carr said...

Love them! Have actually seen them in concert. A friend of mine used to perform with a similar group here in the Bay Area too. Loved going to see her sing.

11:05 AM  

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