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Daria Kulesh

Venue: Cecil Sharp House
Town: London
Date: 23/02/17

One of the signs for me that a gig is going to be something a bit different is spotting an instrument on stage that I don't recognise and looking around at the collection assembled on the mainstage at Cecil Sharp House for the launch of Daria Kulesh's sophomore solo album, "Long Lost Home", there were a couple.

The first was a nyckelharpa, which I had seen before, but not in a cello configuration, in fact I think Vicki Swan's instrument might be unique to the UK, the second a Dakhchan Pandar, certainly was, the instrument may have been unique to Europe that night.

The Dakchan Pandar, belongs to Timur Dzeytov, who not only contributed to Daria's album, but who was also in the UK for the first time. When I casually invited Timur to the stage to deliver a short introduction to the evening, I was unaware of the phrase, Timur Dzeytov, People's Artist Of Ingush Republic, apologies if the relaxed intro offended anyone.

In fact I had only just been made aware that the date of the album launch, February 23rd was a significant date in the Ingush-Chechen calendars, being an anniversary of the great deportation/ethnic cleansing/genocide of both groups from their homelands by Stalin in 1944, something which added poignancy to the evening.

Timur Dzeytov, who has played a significant role in re-establishing the Ingush musical tradition, began his set with a ballad commemorating the events from just over seventy years ago, followed by an instrumental piece before Daria and the rest of the band were called to the stage.

Initially she was just joined by Timor and stand in percussionist, Evan Carson, but before long, she had been joined by the full band, additionally, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer and Kara bandmates Kate Rouse and Phil Underwood, with the band expanding and contracting like one of Phil's melodeon, during the course of two great sets.

This being an album launch for "Long Lost Home" it was no surprise that the evening included the album in its entirety over those two sets and I don't think that I've heard a singer, sing with such an emotionally charged voice as Daria's for a long while. The album features a lot of Daria's family history, particularly that of her relationship with her grandmother and the stories told to her about her heritage and the wider struggle. If that makes it all sound a bit dark, well it was, but it was also beautifully counterpointed by tales of love and triumph over adversity.

A great deal of the audience had connection with Ingushetia giving Daria's songs a really profound affect and several times during the evening flowers were taken to the stage by those moved by the songs reflecting the heritage and though the songs were delivered in English, there was an obvious bond/connection drawn.

That there was going to be an encore was beyond doubt and Daria dropped back to her debut album "Eternal Child" for the tribute to her grandmother, "Fata Morgana". Timur was welcomed back to the stage again for another instrumental that also brought about some traditional dancing to round off an exceptional night of music and one that saw the instrument rule hold good.

Words & Pictures: Neil King

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