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Album Review

On the face of it, this could seem a real oddity — an eight-piece American female vocal group singing Balkan music in a distinctly Eastern European style. But far from coming across as an appropriation of style and material, instead this sounds beautifully authentic and loving, an homage to the region that inspired it. Taking songs of winter as its starting point, Kitka delve back to find beauty, and succeed very well. A single listen to "Byla Cesta," for example, with only two verses, is enough to transport anyone to a chapel in Bulgaria, while the carol "Alilo" brings to mind those women's choirs who had an impact on world music in the late '80s. It's a reminder as top how powerful the human voice really is. "Betlehem, Betlehem," taking from the singing of the great Marta Sebestyen, works a single voice against violin to wonderfully spare effect. "Hubava Milka," a Christmas song, offers sublime harmonies to fend off the cold, and "Tsarsko Momche Kon Sedlae" is redolent of a crossroads with the Middle East in the work on tambura and dumbek drum. Throughout, it's the voices that captivate and enthrall. These women might not have been raised in the Balkans, but they feel it in their bones.


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Kitka, which means bouquet in both Bulgarian and Macedonian, are a leading U.S. women's vocal ensemble specializing in music from Eastern Europe. Kitka began in the Bay Area in 1979 as a group of women coming together simply to sing music they loved from behind the Iron Curtain. That changed after 1981, when Bon Singer became director and the group eventually became professional, recording and touring more extensively. Since 1997 Kitka have been co-directed by Shira Cion, Juliana Graffagna, and Janet...
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Wintersongs, Kitka
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