Born: June 16 Primary Instrument: Various
Ljova, viola and famiola Inna Barmash, vocal Patrick Farrell, accordion Mike Savino, accordion Mathias Kunzli, percussion
LJOVA AND THE KONTRABAND (formerly Ljova & the Vjola Contraband) -- is chamber-jam music for the remix generation. As if by alchemy, Eastern-European and Gypsy melodies, Latin rhythms, Jazz-inspired improvisations, and deeply rooted Classical forms are given new meanings in original compositions that fearlessly forge a new direction, with a nostalgic gaze towards the past.
Since making its debut at the Om Factory Yoga Studio in June 2006, the ensemble has performed at venues such as the New York's Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was the opening musical guest of the Sundance@BAM Film Festival. The Kontraband is also a mainstay at New York's legendary venue Joe's Pub, and the Brooklyn-based club, Barbes.
Founded by the maverick film composer, arranger, and violist Lev 'LJOVA' Zhurbin --- hailed by Billboard magazine as one of New York's fastest rising composers and instrumentalists -- the ensemble also features his close collaborators on vocals, accordion, bass and percussion. Inspired by his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Osvaldo Golijov, the Kronos Quartet, the rapper Jay-Z and others, Ljova's compositions dazzle with intricate textures, odd rhythms and lilting melodies, creating music that is both fresh and timeless. The Kontraband's debut CD, MNEMOSYNE, featuring special guests Frank London, William Schimmel, Uli Geissendoerfer, Alon Yavnai and Marcus Rojas, was released on September 28, 2008.
Ljova and the Kontraband play genre-defying music beautifully and soulfully. Organically bringing together influences ranging from classical and new music, klezmer, tango, jazz, Gypsy music and more, their music is smartly original, steeped in tradition while moving those traditions forward. Ljova is also a savvy promoter who continually demonstrates that independent artists can effectively use new models of music distribution and social networking to bring their music to the public on their own terms. --Bill Bragin, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City
...This past January, the Russian-born, New York City-based violist Ljova and his Vjola Contraband drew a full house at Joe's Pub in Manhattan, forcing fans to stand three-deep at the room's swanky, dimly lit bar. Rarely have I seen so many young, attractive people pay to hear a band with no less than two violists not to mention an accordion player, an acoustic bassist, and a percussionist who bears a striking resemblance to Sideshow Bob.... --Alexander Gelfand, Jazziz