Community Papers

Babes transport audience members to the Balkans

The Balkan Babes perform Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin. - Photo contributed
The Balkan Babes perform Sunday at St. Mary’s Church in Metchosin.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Music lovers need go no further than Metchosin this Sunday (June 1) to take in the melodies of the Balkans.

The award-winning Balkan Babes, a nine-piece choir, explore a repertoire of traditional music from the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia, and even non-Balkan regions including Georgia and the Czech Republic. They sing songs in native tongues, despite the fact none of the choristers know them as a first language.

“The sounds, the tonality of the original languages, is quite important to the production of the tone of the music that is written and we like to respect that,” said Kristen Scott, a Babe since 2000. “To translate it would be something quite different.”

The group mine their musical choices from recommendations and discover some of the songs from research, friends and family. Mastering a single song can take up to a year before it is ready for the public.

“Interpreting the songs … is something we really enjoy. The songs are really beautiful on their own, but it is always great to have an idea of what the content is,” Scott said. “The people can usually immerse themselves in the songs and the interplay of the voices in the different parts.”

The self-organized group has no director, acting more as a collective, with all performers having input on musical decisions. They hope residents take an opportunity to immerse themselves in the sounds of another country.

“A lot of the music is working music, songs about traditional life in the Balkans,” Scott said. “It can be political, folky on a human level and about relationships between people.”

Naseem Janmohamed, a member at large in the Metchosin Community Association, which hosts four to five concerts a year, hadn’t heard of the Balkan Babes until she read ballots from audience members suggesting they perform in the series. Upon discovering them online, Janmohamed acted quickly to book them.

“They have a great sound. The songs they sing are interesting and lively and convey a lot of feelings, I like that a lot,” she said. “It is going to be a great afternoon of fantastic music in a great setting. Our concerts are fun.”

The a cappella group began as a community group of more than 20 women who came together to share music.

That evolved into a performance-oriented ensemble that went on to win a Vancouver Island Music Award and CBC Radio’s choral competition in 2008. They’ve released two full-length albums: Divna, released in 2008 and Volio (2012).

“This group of women have become really good friends. Some of us didn’t know each other before, but the friendships that have grown out of it are really strong and I think that comes through in our performances,” Scott said. “We are always proud and honoured to bring a bit of that musical tradition to this part of the world.”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for seniors and children 12-over. Showtime is 2:30 p.m. at St. Mary of the Incarnation Church, 4125 Metchosin Rd. For more information visit balkanbabes.ca.

alim@vicnews.com

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