A fresh ethno-pop brew of Slavic and Irish sounds straight from the cultural melting pot of Galway.
The heart of the Wild Atlantic way gives birth to yet another noteworthy music project, despite all the restrictions of the situations we are currently in. Baba Yarga is a collaboration between singer-songwriter and producer Agu and a group of musicians of different nationalities based in Galway.
Their debut track, “Zoriushka” is an old Russian song which most likely comes from Siberian Cossacks. It was traditionally sung to brides-to-be. It depicts the cycles of sunrise and sunsets over forests, paths, bridges and people crossing them as a metaphor indicating that life in general follows a certain pattern.
Agu came to Ireland four years ago from the Czech Republic. Inspired by her love for traditional Slavic repertoire, she has created a new album of her favourite traditional Slavic songs giving them a fresh, contemporary sound.
“I was flirting with the idea of creating a fusion of Slavic female polyphonies with contemporary music for a while now. At first, I thought that it's such a niche interest that I'd have to record all the voices myself. But there is something profoundly mystical about singing in harmony with other people and I didn't want to regret not trying to find like-minded souls”, says Agu
This is why In Autumn of 2018, she published a FB post looking for collaborators. To her surprise, the response was immediate.
“I guess this is a perk of living in such a multicultural place like Galway. I feel blessed that this is where my life's path brought me in the end”, says Agu.
The interest and enthusiasm about the project exceeded her expectations, and it was soon clear that it would be more than just another album. Baba Yarga was born.
Agu was joined by Iweta and Witek Kulczycki, a Polish couple who perform their original music under the band name Knot. They too come from a background of World Music, specifically Irish Trad, which they performed on stages across Poland and Europe with their previous group Duan. The love for Irish music brought them to Galway five years ago where they settled down. In Zoriushka, Iweta sings the lead vocal part and Witek is responsible for recording male harmonies as well as all the ethnic instruments including Irish and Middle Eastern flutes.
“We came up with the name Baba Yarga for the project, which is a combination of two words taken from Slavic mythology: Baba Jaga - a supernatural being which appears as a ferocious-looking old woman; and Yarga - a powerful mantric word, believed to help cleanse negative and heavy energies and support the regeneration of vitality. Call it our own version of “yin and yang'' inspired by Slavic mythology if you wish”, says Witek Kulczycki
The three of them started meeting in Agu's home studio in late 2018, learning the songs as they've traditionally been sung and then giving them their own spin. The word quickly got around and they were joined by more singers and more musicians. An Irish bass player Pauli Smalls, Israeli percussionist Itamar Meir, and Irish singer Eimear Coleman
Drawing from their own cultural heritage and musical background, each contributor put their own mark on the final sound of the project. The ultimate mix that we can hear in their debut track can best be described as a World Music / ethno-pop influenced by the legacy of groups such as Enigma or Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares
“We put our passion for Slavic polyphonies and Irish traditional instruments into one pot and spiced it up with modern electronic beats and ambient atmospheres to bring you a unique musical dish to enjoy. We will serve it to you on a plate of our Polish-Czech-Irish-Israeli friendship”, says Iweta Kulczycka