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Comp /EMI Ukraine

The Ukraine rises like a phoenix from the grim grey ashes of the Soviet Union. Haydamaky rose in the underground of Kiev as a ska-punk band called Aktus. Now they have changed their name to Haydamaky (from an anti-Tsarist rebel group) and merge folk music of their national heritage with ska-reggae, "the punk of Shane McGowan," and other styles as well.

The focal point of these songs is the vocal strength of Olexandr Yarmola, carrying the force of the great steppes, full and rich like wheat fields in a summer storm. More practically, he might be compared to a good zabava singer from Saskatoon or to Len Liggins from The Ukrainians. Yarmola stays fairly true to the Ukrainian tradition, even when singing ska. It's the other dudes who falter, accompanying with anything from ska-punk reggae to electronica, mixed with European roots music. Even more characteristic than the allochthonous beat is the trombone; any band with a ska trombone player would be a fool not to use it. Sometimes the sound comes across as a little silly or poppish, but on the whole here is a cohesive, inventive album, certainly on a par with the rocked-up folk that has come from less cloistered parts of Europe.

The album begins with the heavy punkish guitar and circusy ska-punk of "Ck'yat Kechir (Ukrainian Christmas"), but deltas out like the Danube into Haiduke cimbalom-ska fusion, flowing like the Denpr through its signature piece of "Karpatan Ska (Karpaten Ska)," a reggae pop-ska, a punk version of "You Are My Sunshine" ("Oi, to ne ryazha" or "No Red Roses"), a slow traditional (?) ballad with progressive bass and accordion, the electonica and dance beat of "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors." Never straying too far from the rude boys and painted eggs, the album is fun music and a particular joy for Seekers in the broad plains and great mountains of Ethno-Rock. - Judith Gennett

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