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Iva Bittová's "Fragments" at (le) Poisson Rouge

by Melanie Wong 

Feast of Music, Iva Bittova, le Poisson Rouge

Czech singer/songwriter/violinist Iva Bittová expertly charmed the audience Sunday night at (le) Poisson Rouge, her flowing pale-blue-and-white attire matching the ambient atmosphere she created. Beginning the set with a mystical melody on the kalimba, an African thumb piano, the audience was quickly placed in a semi-trancelike state.

Bittová stated that while each of the evening's “Fragments” were taken from her recent self-titled album, she could not guarantee any specific order, and rather invited us to “fly somewhere” with her. The ensuing journey was a beautiful and meditative cycle that ended just as it had begun, with the mystical kalimba lullaby.

Bittová’s music is quite a mix of experimental, classical-crossover, and world music; she plays violin while juxtaposing beautiful and often virtuosic singing (in both English and Czech) with guttural grunts, growls, wailing sobs and cries, tribal-like chanting, and even a little beat-boxing rhythm, together with effectual dramatics in the form of foot-stamping, clapping, and dancing.

When asked about the significance of switching languages within songs, Bittová explained that she tries "use language as its own melodic instrument.” For her, she says, “Quality and meaning of lyrics are most important.” From the listener’s perspective, it was mostly impossible to understand the words she was singing, but the poetry and emotion were clear, even without knowing exactly what the language meant.

Bittová is a seasoned performer and glided seamlessly through each piece, her vocal control, dynamic range, and pitch phenomenal throughout. The audience was receptive, engaged, and silenced by the musical offering, seemingly afraid to even pick up a fork and knife for fear of clanking silverware too loudly.

At the close, however, Bittová received an emphatic applause and graciously performed a fun, upbeat encore that was met with laughter and an even greater sense of appreciation.

You can catch Iva Bittová back in New York on August 29 at East Village favorite, The Stone