Described as “spine-tingling” (Rhythms) and “extraordinary” (Fine Music FM), Chaika create worldly rhythmic textures inspired by Balkan vibrancy, Turkish markets, Celtic stories, and Australia’s own stunning landscapes. Their genre-blending sounds have been branded by fans as Nomadic Folk/Jazz. Employing ethereal harmonies (in several languages), a myriad of instruments and a dynamic ability for discovery, Chaika re-imagine and create their own exuberant music traversing incredible landscapes with jazz-like dexterity.
In April, 2019, they released their third LP ‘Arrow’ – an almost completely original suite of work injected with the compositional personalities of all 6 members. Chaika is comprised of musicians who have written for and performed with a truly diverse roster, including Monsieur Camembert, Nicky Bomba, The Brandenburg Orchestra, Baby et Lulu, Marais Ensemble, The London Bulgarian Choir and many more on major national and international stages.
Wherever appreciative ears assemble – from roots and folk festivals to the world-class environs of Sydney’s City Recital Hall – Chaika surprise, thrill and move unsuspecting listeners. Decidedly “outside the norm” (Timber & Steel) Chaika traverse another age, journeying an unidentifiable era and landscape, in a manner simply referred to by The Australian as “enchanting”.
CD review by Tony Smith
Apparently, Chaika is Bulgarian for ‘seagull’.
This raucous bird summons images that are not at all like the ones this splendid Australian ensemble brings to mind.
The members of Chaika are individually highly qualified and very capable musicians.
Perhaps academic qualifications do not always guarantee that performers will be easy to work with, but Chaika members have obviously found a formula that allows the individual musicians the opportunity to express themselves while contributing to a harmonious whole.
The members of Chaika are Laura Altman (clarinet, vocals), Susie Bishop (violin, vocals), Laura Bishop (piano, percussion, vocals), Emily-Rose Sarkova (accordion, piano, vocals), Rendra Freestone (percussion, guitar, vocals) and Johan Delin (double bass, vocals).
On ‘Little Bird’, Mara Kiek is guest performer on the tapan, a large drum common in Macedonia and across the Balkans.
The name of the ensemble and the range of instruments that members bring to the group is some indication of the style of music they play.
It has been described variously as jazz and Balkan influenced, but Chaika mixes genres so successfully, that their music evokes shades of Klezmer and the Middle East, but it also suggests a free form innovative classical style.
In a couple of pieces, mood changes bring an element of classical movements to mind.
The nine pieces on Chaika’s third album, ‘Arrow’, make very comfortable listening.
They are each pleasing to the ear and they flow naturally around some core ideas.
Each member has composed a theme to inspire the rest of Chaika and then the pieces have become collaborative works.
Susie Bishop wrote the words and music for ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Ludo Mlado’ and teamed with Johan Delin for ‘Pinguines’.
‘Arrow’ is Rendra Freestone’s creation while Laura Bishop wrote ‘On the Sands’.
‘Am I’ and ‘Colour Song’ were Laura Altman’s contributions.
‘Gayclinden Oteye’, a traditional Turkish folk song, was arranged by Emily-Rose Sarkova and ‘I Riden Sa’, a traditional Swedish folk song, was arranged by Chaika collectively.
Chaika very modestly thank producer Llew Kiek for making them sound so good.
While the producer no doubt enhanced these tracks, Chaika need no assistance to sound good.
They can certainly claim to be ‘Gently Wandering Through Foreign Lands’ or at least through exotic musical landscapes.
Having wandered however, they anchor their work firmly in Australia, so that it is easy to identify with the ensemble’s remarkable pieces.
There is a freshness about these tracks suggestive of the musical influences of a country that has the self confidence to take old styles in new directions.
Chaika thank many people for their assistance and support and dedicate the album to the Wesley-Smiths.
Above all, the tracks on ‘Arrow’ show that Chaika approach their music with a professional sense of pride in the product of their collaboration, but they also exude a sense of delight in the process.
This is a combination which gives the listener hope that Chaika will long continue to make their distinct sounds.