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Julia Úlehla

Julia is a vocalist, musician, actress, translator and ethno-musicologist with Czech roots.

“My great-grandfather, Dr. Vladimír Úlehla, was a biologist and amateur folklorist who wrote a book called Živá Píseň (Living Song) about the music of Strážnice, a small town in Slovácko. He believed that songs were living organisms that evolved from specific environmental conditions, and he sought to discover how the songs evolved over time and what characteristics were directly traceable to features of the landscape.”

Julia was captivated by her great-grandfather’s collection of songs and began to dedicate both her artistic and academic work to her Moravian roots. One outcome was Dálava – a progressive post-rock interpretation of the Moravian folk songs collected by Vladimír Úlehla 100 years ago. The songs are reanimated in an extremely stirring, avant-garde, post-rock musical language. Dálava is comprised of a group of stellar musicians from Vancouver, including Julia’s husband, guitarist Aram Bajakian. Dálava delves into deep territory—conjuring ancestors, animating spirits, and crafting musical microcosms around the gem-like folk melodies.

“In the words of Jerzy Grotowski, "Tu es le fils de quelqu'un"—you are someone’s son or daughter, you come from somewhere, and you are connected to generations who have come before you. As an artist and performer, I am interested in reestablishing links that have been disrupted through migration, diaspora, disappearing traditions, and loss of cultural memory, and in grappling with the realities and disjunctures of the places in which we live and whence we come.”

Julia is currently a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of British Columbia, and she holds a BA in Music from Stanford University and an MM in Vocal Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music. Besides actively performing with Dálava, other recent collaborators include Darius Jones (as an original member of his Elizabeth-Caroline Unit), Samita Sinha (in Enkidu), and the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards—arguably the world’s greatest laboratory theatre for the exploration of the actor’s presence and the transmission of oral and song-based culture—with whom she spent five years as an actress. During the past two years, she has presented her academic and performance research around Dálava in concert halls, academic colloquia, clubs, music festivals, workshops and classrooms.

Julia lives in Vancouver with her husband and 2 young children.

Learn more about Dálava here.

Read more about Julia’s PhD research here.

Feature story in The Georgia Straight here.