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This article was published 11/1/2010 (2694 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They've got the traditional accordion, violin and sopilka (shepherd's flute).
Their names are Andriy, Taras, Mikhas, Andrijko, Dobryan and Nick.
But if, after a few shots of vodka, you go staggering up to this young local band and request a song typically played at Ukrainian socials -- like the rollicking polka Fly Kozak! or the novelty tune It's Fun to be Ukrainian -- they'll tell you to go suck a cabbage roll.
Don't bother asking them to turn down the volume, either.
"It's not a wedding band," declares drummer Nick Luchak of the band Zrada.
The group's six members were all born in Canada, but grew up steeped in Ukrainian culture, language and religion in Winnipeg's northern neighbourhoods. Two of them, violinist Mikhas Chabluk and bassist Taras Babiak, are members of the red-booted Rusalka dance troupe.
Zrada is a loud, aggressive ethno-fusion act that melds Slavic and Balkan melodies and Ukrainian lyrics with rock, punk, reggae and ska.
It performs a few traditional folk songs, but it also does a Uke-punk version of Waltzing Matilda.
"We're a folk-rock band," says main songwriter, lead singer and trumpet player Andriy Michalchyshyn, 26, who is more apt to perform in sloppy camouflage shorts than Cossack gear.
"We're not taking requests, we're playing our music," adds the tall, dark-haired vocalist. "Ukrainian music is typecast as, like, polkas and perogies... We're going against what people expect Ukrainian music to be. It's not traditional. It's much more in-your-face."
Zrada is set to perform Thursday night -- Ukrainian New Year's Day, based on the Julian calendar -- at the King's Head pub. The show is a casual Malanka, a New Year's celebration that can take place any time around mid-January.
It will include a midnight countdown, at which time Zrada promises to play a mashup of Auld Lang Syne and an age-old Ukrainian song that proclaims "The old year is passing."
On Jan. 23, the band plays a more formal Malanka in Toronto. Michalchyshyn admits he was amazed to get that gig, because such dinner-dance fêtes usually employ conventional wedding-style bands.
"We never expected to be invited to play at a Malanka," he says. "I spent a good half-hour on the phone going, 'Are you sure? Have you heard our music?'"
It turned out that the organizers, a Ukrainian youth association, had seen Zrada at Toronto's Ukrainian Bloor Street Festival this past September and knew what to expect.
Zrada formed in 2005, but didn't solidify its current lineup until last year.
It's a part-time pursuit, since the six, ranging in age from early 20s to early 30s, all have "straight" lives. Michalchyshyn is a high school teacher. Luchak is an aspiring graphic designer. Babiak and guitarist Dobryan Tracz are scientists, Chabluk is a pharmacy student and accordionist Andrijko Semaniuk is a commerce student.
In October, Zrada released its debut independent CD, which earned four stars out of five from Free Press reviewer Jeff Monk. The self-titled, 16-song disc, available at Into the Music, War On Music or www.cdbaby.com, has earned stylistic comparisons to a British band called The Ukrainians and to New York Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello.
In September at the Garrick Theatre, the Zrada boys got to open for a famous ensemble from Ukraine that they greatly admire, the "Carpathian ska" band Haydamaky. One of that band's albums is called Ukraine Calling, presumably a reference to the seminal punk album London Calling by The Clash.
The two bands hung out and talked about the dream of Zrada touring Ukraine and playing European festivals. "They were encouraging, but they gave us a lot of constructive criticism," says Michalchyshyn.
Haydamaky is named after 18th-century Cossack and peasant rebels. Zrada's name also expresses rebellion. It means "treason" or "betrayal."
"It's a very strong word," says the singer. "It's showing that we're different. It's not a happy-go-lucky polka-band name."
The album cover of London Calling may have depicted The Clash's bassist smashing his instrument against the stage, but Zrada's CD art includes "a demented Kozak smashing a bandura (Ukrainian lute) over his head."
Reactions to Zrada's local shows have been mixed. Some elderly members of the tight-knit Ukrainian community have walked out "because it's not their bag and it's loud," says Michalchyshyn.
On the other hand, "some older people are very pleased that we're doing something in Ukrainian."
As a child, Michalchyshyn says, "I probably knew Ukrainian before I knew English." His songs, with titles such as Dark Skies and Winter, often employ nature imagery, which is inescapable in traditional Ukrainian lyrics and poetry. He is often asked why he doesn't write in English.
"To me, (Ukrainian) is more poetic," he says.
"When your culture is so ingrained, so deep, there are so many emotions there. It's impossible to ignore. If you can connect that to something creative, it's so fulfilling. It's the ultimate expression of who you are."
Malanka Pub Night with Zrada, at the King's Head
Thursday at 9:30 p.m.
$5 at the door