Kitka
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Kitka

Oakland, California, United States | INDIE

Oakland, California, United States | INDIE
Band World Folk

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""Simply amazing harmonies…"

“Simply amazing harmonies…truly this is the most wonderful singing I have ever heard.” - David Crosby, CROSBY, STILLS, AND NASH


""...stunning...""

“A stunning group unlike any other…absolutely electrifying!” - A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION


"“Even God stops to listen...""

“Even God stops to listen when KITKA—unamplified, without sets, props, instruments, or even lyrics most people can understand—opens its collective mouth. The sound is so chillingly beautiful, by anyone's standards, that the entire audience sits enraptured, most of them with eyes shut. My own eyes flooded with tears.” - THE GUARDIAN


""...haunting...""

“KITKA shares the same haunting repertoire as Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares —plus Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Russian, and Ukrainian folk material—but KITKA’s sonority is much more supple and lyrical than its Bulgarian counterpart.” - THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE


""it should always feel this good.”"

“Only a Slavic folk tune can express bliss in a minor key, agony in jaunty dance rhythms. KITKA delivered with a combination of exquisite technique and pure, unflinching emotion. If life must hurt, it should always feel this good.”
- THE OREGONIAN


""never too late to connect with tradition.”"

“Exquisitely harmonized and rhythmically charged songs. . . that translated into laments about the ravages of war as well as celebrations of community. KITKA executed the Balkan microtonal harmonies and dissonance and the diaphonic drone melody juxtapositions with breathtaking precision…an inspirational concert that served as a reminder that it is never too late to connect with tradition.”
—Derk Richardson, - BILLBOARD


""perfect unisons and soft subtle shadings""

“When KITKA starts to sing, they transport you far away, to a place where wind sweeps through deep evergreen forests and stars spill out of the sky…They ran through 22 folk tunes with rapt, almost introspective attention to the demands of fast trills, fluid glissandos, perfect unisons and soft subtle shadings mesmerizing in their loveliness.”
- HILLS PUBLICATIONS


""a spellbound audience ""

“The printed word cannot describe the shouts, the cries, the mouth music, the sliding of the voice to reach an opening note, the complex rhythms, and harmonies that KITKA achieved. A writer can describe what the music, brought to a spellbound audience at the Varsity Theater evoked: women working together, celebrating together, supporting each other in song. The textures and patterns reminded me of weaving, which, when you think of it, is another ancient work of women.”
- THE DAVIS ENTERPRISE


"Exotic Mysteries"

Two Early Music Now concerts this season diverted into folk music, a broader definition of what comprises “early music.” And why not? Last fall Trio Mediaeval presented a program of Nordic folk songs. Music from the opposite end of Europe was featured in a concert Saturday night by Kitka at the Basilica of St. Josaphat.

Kitka, a women’s vocal ensemble based in San Francisco, specializes in music from southeastern Europe, particularly from Bulgaria. Music of this Balkan region for women’s voices has a distinctive style and sound, at first startling to those unaccustomed to it. A chest voice belt has been cultivated to high art. The sound is both rambunctious and subtle. Kitka’s tone is pure, and tuning is impeccable. Its ensemble and phrasing is highly evolved.

There is strange wonder in the stunning arrangements of richly asymmetrical folk music Kitka performed. Slowly emerging harmonies seldom headed into expected territory. The seven-voice ensemble performed primarily in what I assumed to be Bulgarian. Even with brief paraphrases in the program about the meaning of the lyrics for each piece, this music evoked exotic mysteries.
A soloist, Tzvetanka Varimezova, joined the ensemble on several numbers. Her voice is both sweet and forthright. American ears are not accustomed to the agile, complex ornamentation of this style, which at its best organically creates stirring emotion. Periodically Ivan Varimezov played bravura solos on the gajda, a Balkan bagpipe, and also accompanied some of the singing. It was immediately clear that the ornamented singing style is closely related to the similar musical lines heard on the gajda. Milwaukee Choral Artists, a women’s chorus, joined Kitka on a few pieces...
- Rick Walters, Sherherd Express


Discography

CDs:
2009 Cradle Songs
2008 Sanctuary: A Cathedral Concert
2007 The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds
2006 DVD: Kitka and Davka in Concert: Old and New World Jewish Music
2005 Wintersongs
2002 The Vine
1999 Nectar
1992 Voices on the Eastern Wind
Cassettes:
1995 Sacred Voices, Sacred Sounds
1989 Kitka

Photos

Bio

“Even God stops to listen when KITKA - unamplified, without sets, props, instruments - opens its collective mouth. The sound is so chillingly beautiful, by anyone's standards, that the entire audience sits enraptured, most of them with eyes shut.”
- Summer Burkes, THE GUARDIAN

MISSION AND HISTORY

Kitka is an American women's vocal arts ensemble inspired by traditional songs and vocal techniques from Eastern Europe. Dedicated to developing new audiences for music rooted in Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian women's vocal traditions, Kitka also strives to expand the boundaries of folk song as a living and evolving expressive art form. Kitka's activities include an Oakland-based home series of concerts and vocal workshops; regional, national, and international touring; programs in the schools; recording, publication, and broadcast projects; master artist residencies; commissioning; community service work; and adventuresome collaborations.

Founded in 1979, Kitka began as a grassroots group of amateur singers from diverse backgrounds who met regularly to share their passion for the stunning dissonances, asymmetric rhythms, intricate ornamentation, lush harmonies, and resonant strength of Eastern European women’s vocal music. Under the direction of Bon Singer from 1981 to 1996, Kitka blossomed into a refined professional ensemble earning international renown for its artistry, versatility, and mastery of the demanding techniques of traditional and contemporary Balkan, Slavic, and Caucasian vocal styling. Under the co-direction of Shira Cion, Juliana Graffagna, and Janet Kutulas since 1997, Kitka has grown to earn recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chorus America, and the American Choral Directors’ Association as one of this country’s premier touring vocal ensembles. In addition, many international musical authorities consider Kitka the foremost interpreter of Balkan and Slavic choral repertoire working in the United States.

Kitka has deep ties to Eastern Europe and has traveled there to perform and collect repertoire many times. In 2002, Kitka joined Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares as “international guests of honor” for this world-renowned choir’s 50th Anniversary Gala at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. In 2005 and 2009, supported by a major grants from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, Kitka journeyed to Ukraine and Poland for a series of performances, international artist-exchange meetings, radio and television broadcasts, and research expeditions in rural villages. In the fall of 2010 Kitka was a featured ensemble at the 5th International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony in Tbilisi, Georgia. Kitka’s singers regularly conduct fieldwork in ethnic communities throughout America as well as abroad. Individual Kitka members have researched and collected songs in Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Many of Kitka’s singers are also talented composers and arrangers who create original settings of songs they have gathered in the field. In 2000, Kitka received major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation’s MAP Fund to launch the New Folksongs Commissioning Project, which engages some of the most exciting voices in contemporary music to write new works that utilize Kitka’s wide-ranging sound palette. New Folksongs commissions premiered to date include compositions by Pauline Oliveros, Chen Yi, Dan Cantrell, Marcel Khalife, Janet Kutulas, David Lang, Linda Tillery, Sara Michael, Daniel Hoffman, Raif Hyseni, Thilo Reinhardt, Roy Whelden, Vladimir Zenevitch, Janika Vandervelde, and Richard Einhorn. In 2002, Kitka began work on it’s most ambitious commissioning project to date: The Rusalka Cycle: Songs Between the Worlds, a new vocal-theater project directed by Ellen Sebastian Chang, with original music by Ukrainian composer and folk singer Mariana Sadovska. Weaving old Slavic mythology together with contemporary themes, The Rusalka Cycle’s premiere performances took place to extraordinary public acclaim at Oakland’s Malonga Center in November 2005. The Rusalka Cycle was revived in San Francisco in January 2008 and subsequently toured to the Revolutions International Theater Festival in Albuquerque, NM, The Globalize: Cologne and Stimmen Festivals in Germany, The Giving Voice Festival in Wroclaw, Poland, and the Kiev Mohylanka Theater Academy in Ukraine. In February 2009, Kitka premiered Richard Einhorn’s The Origin, a new oratorio co-commissioned by ARTSwego at SUNY Oswego. Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, The Origin is scored for Kitka, symphony orchestra and chorus with film projections by award-winning video artist Bill Morrision. Also in 2009, Kitka premiered Dan Cantrell’s Rootabaga Opera, with texts by Carl Sandburg, in collaboration with shadow puppet artists Larry Reed and Christine Marie of Shadowlight Prod