SHREWSBURY: BALALAIKAS RINGING OUT

barynyaYou call that a balalaika? Now THIS is a balalaika…and Elina Karokhina and Mikhail Smirnov of the Barynya troupe are not afraid to use it, when the traditional Russian music act comes to the Eastern Branch of the county library on Thursday evening.

With the Secretary of State meeting with “his Russian counterpart” every other news cycle, you could say that Russia is currently on the American cultural radar screen more than it’s been in a generation — and over at the Monmouth County Library Eastern Branch, the radar’s pulsing with an incoming act that’s got the Hotline heating up as never before. The musicians and dancers of the NJ-based Barynya troupe have long brought traditional sounds and steps to regional audiences, in contexts that range from full ensembles to intimate trios and duos, with the core of master musicians — virtuoso lead balalaika player Elina Karokhina, instrumentalist and educator Alex Siniavsky, guitarist-accordionist Mikhail Smirnov, and Leonid Bruk, he of the giant contra (bass) balalaika — conjuring highly danceable spells that carry echoes of everything from mandolin-fired bluegrass to supercharged surf rock.

A duo of Barynya regulars and dancers will perform a 6:30 pm concert at the Library on Thursday in an all-ages presentation (with “dancing bear” alluded to) hosted as part of the “Día! Diversity in Action” program. Admission is free, but tickets are required, and can be picked up in person at the Library.

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