The Curtain Is Up
for Arts & Lectures
An Exciting Lineup of Entertainment Is
on Tap for the Fall
By Josef Woodard | September 29, 2022
This year’s A&L season kicks off in down-homey fashion and on American cultural soil, once removed, with Charley Crockett’s neo-retro country and soul eloquence, but the varied and multicultural contextual fabric of the series opens up quickly and expands into a myriad of events through May. Four days after Crockett, the cultural topography shifts eastward to Ukraine, when the modern yet indigenous ensemble known as DakhaBrakha lands at The Granada Theatre on Thursday, October 6.
Its Santa Barbara debut comes amid a fairly whirlwind touring schedule for the group, which had gained acclaim and momentum in the so-called “world music” scene, prior to Ukraine’s tragic entry into the world’s attention and news cycle at the hands of Putin’s aggression. In the current agitated atmosphere, the group’s popularity has given them something of a Ukrainian cultural ambassador status around the world.
Founded by theater director Vladyslav Troitskyi in 2004, DakhaBrakha is a unique, progressive yet tradition-tapping ensemble that weaves a fluid, genre-crossing, and border-crossing sound with elements of experimentalism and contemporary theater in the mix. At times, the group’s atmospheric music can resemble something by Sigur Rós, if the Icelandic soundscapers merged with Eastern European kinfolk. The ranks of DakhaBrakha’s touring musicians include Marko Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsybulska, and Nina Garenetska, all of whom also contribute to the resonant vocal textures in the music and who play an assortment of indigenous and western instruments.
Suffice to say, DakhaBrakha — also boasting the coolest hats imaginable — will usher forth a sound and sensation unlike anything the Granada has yet hosted.
Leading up to the Granada performance, Santa Barbara’s ongoing 1st Thursday Art Walk program downtown (5-8 p.m.) will aid and abet the cause with a special “Ukraine Fest.” Outside the Granada — a space now suited to special events and concerts thanks to the pedestrian-only status on State Street — there will be a free presentation of dancers, cultural artifacts, and a concert of bandura (a Ukrainian zither-like instrument) music by the Ukrainian musician Siuzanna Iglidan, a prelude to the acclaimed visitors from Kyiv inside the venue.
If Crockett and DakhaBrakha serve as this “post-pandemic” A&L season’s welcome-wagoners, the calendar quickly locks into gear, realizing with a renewed intensity the long-standing and deep mission of A&L’s broadly sweeping agenda, spanning regions of culture and contemporary issues.
For its jazz allotment this year, A&L has bumped up the heat. We will get the perennial visit from Wynton Marsalis, as expected — though this time in small group form versus his usual Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra big band. The list also includes artists who, incidentally, all appeared at last week’s Monterey Jazz Festival — Matthew Whitaker, the latest incarnation of the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, and Artemis, the all-female band of increasing acclaim.
In classical music news, another returning A&L regular of global currency is Yo-Yo Ma, appearing this season in tandem with imminent collaborators, pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Piano mastery is a subplot this year, from the populist celebrity Lang Lang to the poetic genius Víkingur Ólafsson. New music has a respectable stake in the program as well, from the local debut of the renowned Parisian Ensemble Intercontemporain (a film-music evening featuring the vintage film The City Without Jews) to the final installment of the Doppelgänger series by the strikingly fine Danish String Quartet (also an A&L favorite), to Sō Percussion (recently savored in its Music Academy of the West concert) in a program built around composer-performer Caroline Shaw.
A&L’s thicket of offerings spans many disciplines and issues. The always-strong dance component (a special interest for A&L head Celesta Billeci) opens with SW!NG OUT on October 8 and goes on to include such notable dance world figures/companies as the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Ballet Preljocaj, Ballet Hispánico, and the Mark Morris Dance Group.
No less important is the “L” word in the Arts & Lectures equation. The lecture tradition was led for many years by the formidable veteran Roman Baratiak until his recent retirement after more than 40 years in the erudite trenches, and the series continues apace after the change of the guard. The series starts with David Gergen on October 11 at the Granada and moves forward with visits from Maria Ressa, Nina Totenberg, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and others, and a return of the fascinating series of interviews with semi-local writer Pico Iyer.
Plenty of other offerings this season, including some still in the planning and booking stage, will make up the A&L’s bounty of options, in concert and beyond. Once again, the season brings artists, intelligentsia, and figures of international renown to Santa Barbara, broadening our outlook and making our mid-size city a more cosmopolitan and worldly place to live.
To launch it all, we have a Sunday-night special in store: neo-classic country of a high, arty-twangy order.
Learn more on the A&L website here.