Mariana Sadovska & Borderland
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Mariana Sadovska & Borderland


Band World Avant-garde


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"A Rugged Musical Journey Through Rural Ukraine"

Sometimes a musician has such an inborn desire to communicate that her message naturally becomes universal: it doesn't matter whether she is singing soul or bel canto or folk. The responsibilities, protocol and tradition of whatever style she is working in just vanish; she replaces them with pure vitality.

Such was the case with the Ukrainian singer Mariana Sadovska, who performed on Friday night at Exit Art in the penultimate event of its Balcan Cabaret series. The slight, intense Ms. Sadovska, who is in New York only briefly, working with the Yara Arts Group, a theatre troupe, at LaMamma, stormed on stage, stood behind a harmonium and quickly announced that all the songs she would perform had been given to her by women she had met in her travels through Ukraine.

"After ten years of travel," she said, "I understand that a song can be a map which leads you to your life."

Ms. Sadovska has a hollering, slighty nasal voice and she pushed into the ribs and tears in it, filling the room, singing fast and using the harmonium notes to jerk herself forward.

The songs, all about the rituals and psychology of a remote, rural life, had strong melodies, only occasionally in minor keys; she used whipping trills in her voice. One was a widow song summoning the courage to live on after the death of a husband; another was that of a girl drawing water from a well and speaking with doves; one was a song to push sirens away; another, to push clouds away. Between verses she rattled off aproximate english translations.

Some moments in the performance recalled white gospel music from Appalachia. At other times Ms. Sadovska's delivery was as wired forthright and sexual as a rock star - Polly Jean Harvey perhaps. She could have been singing the same material in front of a rock trio.

Towards the end she sang in front of slide projections of the areas she had travelled through; the images depicted farms, weddings, children, churches, weathered old women with tough smiles. The performance was rushed and nearly reckless but oddly perfect.

Ben Ratliff - The New York Times, 8/03/2001

"Most expressive..."

Most expressive:an astonishing melange of archaic elements, vocal arts, hard rock and theatrical-ironic refractions - WDR, Western German Broadcasting, 23/11/2006

"...absolutely unique..."

...absolutely unique, never heard before, you get electrified; by far - the most outstanding stage presence! - JURY, creole: Competition for World Music from Germany, 2006

"Sadistic Lullabies: Mariana Sadovska and Borderland at Joe's Pub, NYC"

Popular Ukrainian actress Mariana Sadovska is a passionate advocate and goodwill ambassador for the eerie, gypsyish folksongs from the remote villages of her native land. What was most striking about her show at Joe’s Pub last night was how relevant she made them for an urban, non-Ukrainian-speaking audience. Many of these songs involve conjury - for fertility, the change of seasons, the harvest - and unsurprisingly have an otherworldly, magical feel to them. Accompanying herself on Indian harmonium and backed by her terrific jazz trio Borderland (German natives Jarry Singla on piano, Sebastian Gramss on bass and Peter Kahlenborn on drums), Sadovska delivered the songs dramatically and fervently. Moving in a split second from a whisper to a wail, crying, growling and, once in a while, shrieking, she showed off a vocal style more evocative of Nina Hagen or Diamanda Galas’ recent work than, say, Lydia Lunch. There were also echoes of Bjork and, on one long, trancelike number, vintage Patti Smith circa Radio Ethiopia: clearly, Sadovska has listened widely in creating her utterly individual, idiosyncratic arrangements of this material.

Sadovska learned it the old-fashioned way, going from house to house a la Allan Lomax, asking for songs. As she told it, villagers welcomed her and even took her in, as if seeing in her a new messenger for their centuries-old songs. While her often hypnotic, gypsy-jazz versions likely stray considerably from their roots, her passion for the music is contagious: it ought to resonate with fans of the current gypsy music craze. And crazed much of it is: among the songs she and the band played tonight were a lullaby in which a mother prepares her newborn child for the day she sics him or her on the enemy, a fertility song with a somewhat familiar, chromatic gypsy melody and all kinds of tricky time changes, a long, eerie witch’s incantation and a love song with an unlikely melody which she and the band used as an encore after the audience wouldn’t let her leave the stage without one.

Playing prepared piano, Singla went inside the instrument to pull and hammer on the strings to add strangeness. Gramss bowed and plucked his bass in the highest registers for a violin effect while Kahlenborn propelled the unit with considerable fervor. Although the show started slowly on what seemed a slightly contrived note for a couple of songs, the final three-quarters of an hour was fascinating and frequently entrancing to experience. - Lucid Culture, 25/08/2008


2002: "Songs I learned in Ukraine"
Mariana Sadovska solo (Global Village Records)
2005: "Borderland"
Mariana Sadovska with Anthony Coleman, Doug Wieselman, Roberto Rodriguez, Frank London, Brad Jones
2007: "The Rusalka Cycle"
Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble, music by Mariana Sadovska
2010: "Just not forever" - nrw records



Ukrainian Björk – …this is how Mariana Sadovska is called by her country’s critics. In her furious programmes the singer, actress and composer crosses all borders: archaic midsummer night invocations, wedding songs and emigrant chants from remote villages in rural Ukraine get a singular turn and transmute into contemporary sound, from folk until avantgarde; her vocal power and range even incited the New York Times to compare Mariana Sadovska with rock star Polly Jean Harvey.

Since 15 years the multi-talented artist has been collecting songs, legends, rhymes passed on by oral tradition. She is regularly performing on stages such as of the San Francisco World Music Festival, Symphony Space New York, Joe's Pub New York, TFF Rudolstadt, Giving Voice Festival... collaborating amongst others with Frank London ("The Clezmatics"), Anthony Coleman (USA), Victoria Hanna (IL), Kwartet Jorgi (PL).

With the Germany-based instrumental trio (Jarry Singla p, Peter Kahlenborn dr, Sebastian Gramss b) she found an answer in her search to bridge the gap between ancient sounds and the contemporary. Expressive singing and experimental sounds merge into furious interpretations of archaic tellings.

Mariana Sadovska - singer, composer, actress
Born in Lviv, Ukraine, Mariana Sadovska now lives in Cologne, Germany, and works throughout Europe and the USA performing, directing workshops, participating in theatre projects, composing incidental music. Her work in music and theater has always been inspired by indigenous cultures. Her aspiration ist to bridge the gap between ancient, traditional sounds and the contemporary.

She began her work in 1991 with Les Kurbas Theater (Lviv, Ukraine) in Anatolyi Vasiliev's Festivals in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Invitation to join Theater Gardzienice where she worked for 10 years (actor and music director). During that time, she began her exploration of indigenous music and cultures, with expeditions in the Ukraine, to Ireland, Egypt, Cuba and Brazil. She has since organized many cultural exchanges between contemporary artists from Europe and the US with native singers from Ukraine.

In 2001, she moved to NYC (grant by Earth Foundation). Work as a music director with La Mama E.T.C.'s resident theater company, Yara Arts Group. First solo performances as well as collaborations with such renowned artists as Michael Alpert, Anthony Coleman, Frank London, Victoria Hanna. First solo CD "Songs I learned in Ukraine" (2002, Global Village Records). Since then, regular invitations, solo concerts, workshops, theatrical collaborations at: Public Theatre (NYC), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Symphony Space (NYC), Princeton and N.Y. University, San Francisco World Music Festival. In 2004/2005 new stay in the USA, second CD "Borderland" (evoe:performing:artists), featuring Anthony Coleman, Doug Wieselman, Roberto Juan Rodriguez and Frank London.

With her band "Borderland" Mariana Sadovska has touched the audiences at Cologne Philharmony, TFF Rudolstadt, Joe's Pub/NY... with her furious interpretation of traditional Ukrainian songs.

Further Stations of Work:
Performances: Jewish Festival San Francisco (with a Frank London project)
Workshops/performances: Penn State University, Urbana Champaign, Stanford, Princeton

Fulbright scholarship in the USA 2007/2008 (project: Anthology on traditional Ukrainian songs)
Performances: "The Rusalka Cycle" first performance by Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble, San Francisco
Musical Direction/Composition: "Cesarian Cut", ZAR Theater, Wroclaw/Poland

Award: CREOLE 2006 - Prize for World Music, regional qualification Northrhine-Westfalia
Theater: "RAUMUNG" by Claudia Klischat (first performance), Futur3/Cologne, Music: Mariana Sadovska
Competition: Nominee for the Alfred-Radek-Prize with the music of "sklavy" (Farma v Jeskyni, Prague)

Performances: "Without Ground", featuring Anthony Coleman, Roberto Rodrigues, Doug Wieselman,
Symphony Space New York City; San Francisco World Music Festival
Workshops/Performances: University/National Theater Kabul (Afghanistan), expedition to Badachschan
Musical Direction: Guest for the Art Atelier Program (curated by: Toni Morrison), Princeton University/US
Theater: "Rusalka Cycle", Oakland (CA), Composition and Arrangements: Mariana Sadovska

Performances: East Voices-Festival Prague, US-Tour: Joe's Pub, Macor, BAM (NYC), Albuquerque,
Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Barbara, Portland; Warszaw, Giving-Voice Festival (Wales)
Musical Directing: "Sklavy", Theater Farma v Jeskyni (Prague) [traditional music from East-Slovakia]; "citybeats - Gott in der Stadt", Futur3/Cologne [sacred music from around the world]
Expeditions: Polissia (Chernobil), Podilla, Carpathians (Ukraine)

Performances: Jewish Cultural Center NYC (with Victoria Hanna); REVOLUTIONS International Theater
Festival Albuquerque, New Mexico, US-Tour : Philadelphia, Portland, San Fran