Balkan Babes are active members of Vancouver
Island’s music, arts and
Participating in festivals, community and private events around Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the lower mainland, the group entertains, educates and enchants
Back L-R: Karen Visser, Faro Annie Sullivan, Kristin Scott, Chantal Leblond
Mid L-R: Laura Wilder, Rebekkah Patriarche, Kelly Sherwin
Front: Genevieve Charbonneau, Pam Campbell
photo: Tony Bounsall
2014 winners of the World Music category in the Vancouver Island Music Awards,
Balkan Babes began in Victoria in 1999 as a community of women learning and sharing a capella folk music from various regions of the Balkans. By 2005, the Balkan Babes had evolved from a grassroots choir to a performance-oriented vocal ensemble, remaining dedicated to the challenging and highly rewarding process of being a collective, with no director. The nine current members, coming from Saltspring Island, Cowichan Valley and Victoria, were part of the original group. Over the years, the Balkan Babes have gained local acclaim singing at many festivals, events and concerts throughout Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. In 2008 the Babes stepped onto the national stage, performing in Montreal as first place winners in the Pan Cultural Traditions category of CBC Radio 2’s biennial amateur choral competition, ‘Choral 2008’.
The nine women that make up the Balkan Babes are drawn to the penetrating harmonies, asymmetric rhythms, unusual ornamentations and powerful emotions that characterize the rich and timeless folk music of Eastern Europe and love to share this with their audiences. With no native speakers of the Balkan languages in the group, the lyrics are learned by memorization and the repertoire obtained from a variety of sources, including workshops from musicians and musicologists from the Balkans and North America, the internet, resource tips from their audiences and learning by ear from other singers. They find that the music really speaks for itself, and their audiences are able to immerse themselves in the sound though they might not understand the lyrics. An introduction and synopsis of each song is (almost!) always provided. While the Balkan Babes strive for an authentic sound in vocal production and pronunciation, they also open up many songs to their own contemporary interpretations and arrangements.
"Last Sunday, before we drove down to Victoria, we searched for something interesting, hopefully something musical, happening in the city. Absolutely nothing popped. We had plans to meet a friend for tea, and she suggested the Spiral Cafe.... a place unheard (of) by us. We seated comfortably at the back and we're deep in conversation when a line of women entered through the back door and headed for the front. It was announced that The Balkan Babes would begin their performance soon. In the following hour we were overwhelmed by the beauty and depth of their a cappella arrangements of eastern European songs.The bass voices laid the groundwork with subtle and unfamiliar (to me at least) harmonic intervals. Others wove lofty melodies to beats both exotic and familiar. It was an uplifting experience I'll long remember. How did we all happen to come together so perfectly?" J.E. from December 2017