It was a special moment. Burghausen in March 2018, Wackerhalle, LELÉKA entered the stage. The night before, the band had been crowned the winner of the International Young Jazz Competition. Now it could prove that the musicians were capable of going beyond the fireworks of a short concert to charm an audience in a large hall that did not yet know them. It turned out to be a triumph. For Viktoria Leléka and her three comrades-in-arms succeeded in delighting people with songs that had their present in modern jazz but their roots in the folk music of Ukraine. More competitions soon followed, more successes, and so it became clear that the band, which had come together in Berlin in 2016 and had already shone as winners at the 6th Global Music Contest creole 2017 in Berlin, claimed a place for itself in the European jazz scene.
Jazz only partially captures the idea behind the music. It is the creative basis, rhythmically and formally based on improvisational freedom. Harmonically, however, there are chamber jazz and folklore elements. Melodically, in articulation and phrasing, Viktoria Leléka clearly and strikingly follows folk music models of her Ukrainian homeland. For her, it is the centre of the music and that is also what makes it so radiant. For it is not a question of colouring, but of connecting traditions, right down to the subtleties of emotion that her voice conveys even beyond the language. From the very beginning, bassist Thomas Kolarczyk and drummer Jakob Hegner have helped her realise the concept, and since 2019, pianist Povel Widestrand has also been part of the LELÉKA team (which incidentally means “stork” in English, a Ukrainian symbol for spring, happiness.
“And since our previous recordings were actually EPs rather than real albums,” Viktoria Leléka tells us about the genesis of “Sonce u Serci” (Engl. “Sun in the Heart”), “including the sometimes very improvised result, we wanted to do everything right this time. I wrote many arrangements, we rehearsed a lot. This allowed us to create pieces that reach further into the future”. Some are about happiness and love, many draw directly on folk music originals or adapt their esprit. Current topics ranging from concern for nature to the monument to human hubris, Chornobyl, are also part of the repertoire. At the core, however, it is about confidence, musically, atmospherically, conveyed through the power of the melodies and the personalities who dedicate themselves to them. In this way, LELÉKA recommends itself as a band with a sense for the nuances of everyday life that transcends sound cultures.