The Yehla Collective is an eclectic group of musicians based in the Greater Washington DC and Baltimore area. The band was formed during a musical/literary project that was produced by Plamen Press and Sun King Records called “Steel Strings and Iron Curtains”, an Album of subversive songs that defied communism during the cold war. The album features translated songs of Czech poets and musical icons Karel Kryl and Jaromir Nohavica.Though largely unknown outside the Iron Curtain, these songs – some of which were banned by the Communist authorities – helped inspire the resistance movement and became potent anthems sung by Prague demonstrators during the 1989 protests. They are still beloved in the region today, much as classic songs by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger are in the West.The Yehla Collective, an eclectic group of Czech, Slovak, Armenian, Moravian and American musicians, has recorded new renditions of these passionate, political and existential songs. These recordings incorporate gypsy jazz, western swing, folk guitar, violin and trad. fujara and koncovka overtone flutes.
Musicians and Vocalists
Lea Gilmore (Vocals – Live) – USA
“Her resonant voice is a gift from her soul to our ears.” Known for her quick smile, sly sense of humor and energetic performances, Lea is a skilled and sought after singer, lecturer and performer. She has appeared in over 45 musical and dramatic theater productions, including starring roles in “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “, “Dream Girls”, “Purlie” and much more; toured with the Common Ground Gospel Choir in Vienna, Austria as a soloist; toured Holland, Belgium and Scotland as a singer (blues, gospel, jazz?) and lecturer, and is currently performing “A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson” with noted pianist Eric Byrd at music festivals and cultural centers around the US. Lea is also the lead singer of the acoustic blues trio “Sangmele” (meaning mixed blood). Amongst many concerts, Sangmele performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Morgan State University with a degree in political science and a member of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society for the Social Sciences, Lea is staunchly committed to human and civil rights. The former Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of MD, Ms. Gilmore has been appointed by the United States Commission on Civil Rights to serve as a member of the Maryland State Advisory Board.
Jael (YaYa) Patterson, (Vocals) – USA
Yaya, a DMV native, began her musical journey in the church. She began to formalize her musical education in high school and then went on to study to be a jazz vocalist and board-certified music therapist at Temple University. After completing her music therapy internship at St. Elizabeths Hospital, she began working as a direct social service worker and music therapist and has continued to do so ever since. Apart from Yaya’s vocations, she enjoys exploring the human condition through folk songs, fairy tales, creating her own lyrical experiments, and taking nature walks.
Anna Connolly (Vocals – CD) – USA
Anna writes, plays, and sings songs that tell stories about the bare world of emotion and the human experience. She fell into playing music later in life, but the seeds were planted early. She went to punk shows in LA as a young teenager, and when her family moved to DC in the 1980s, she and her sister Cynthia became part of the small, nascent punk scene there. She spent much of her high school years working at a record store, buying records, and going to shows. Though many of her friends were in bands, she didn’t get the idea to play until much later in life. Though Anna’s songs all start as solo acoustic works, at different times she has brought on musicians to play with her to expand and enrich her songs. This was her goal for her debut album AFTER THOUGHTS. For this project, Anna worked with longtime DC musician Devin Ocampo (the EFFECTS, Beauty Pill, Faraquet, and more) as well as co-producer and engineer Don Godwin (Slavic Soul Party). Anna has also played and recorded with Joe Lally (Fugazi) and Stefan Bauschmid (Numbers Station). Read more about the record here:
Christine Kharazian (Violin Live & CD) -Armenia
Christine Kharazian is a concert violinist, a graduate of the Komitas State Conservatory and the Tchaikovsky Advanced School of Music in Yerevan. She studied violin with Prof. Edward Dayan, a pupil of David Oistrakh. Her early performance experience includes 5 years with the Armenian National Opera’s Symphony as a member of the first violins, and with the Sharakan Ensemble of Ancient and Medieval Music of Armenian TV and Radio, as a soloist. Christine is an active performer. As a soloist, she has performed in concerts at the Kennedy Center, Strathmore Hall, Dumbarton House, the Gallery at The Ellipse, and various Embassies in Washington, among other venues. Christine is an experienced educator. An alumna of the Inspired Teaching Institute, she teaches at Sidwell Friends School, and at Fillmore Arts Center in Washington, DC and is Washington Performing Arts teaching artist for the Capitol Strings program. Christine is also the author and presenter of a series of interactive programs in music education. As a performing and teaching artist, she collaborates with CHIME (Community Help in Music Education), offering programs to hundreds of students through Arts for Every Student – a project of the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative, benefiting many of the District’s public and charter schools. Currently she serves as a Chair of Student Activities at Friday Morning Music Club, coordinating concert series for young aspiring musicians.
Tomáš Drgoň (Jazz Guitar, Bass – CD & Live) – Slovakia
Tomáš Drgoň is known in the Washington DC Area the glorious leader of Orchestra Praževica which delivers honest, authentic and entertaining mix of folklore, jazz and dance music suitable for from upscale clubs to dives, jazz festivals to mosh pits, arts receptions to underground galleries. Orchester Praževica, which also includes Christine Kharazian, has performed at several prestigious stages including the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington DC, Patterson Theater in Baltimore, The Drom in NYC, and shared stage with the Hungarian Gypsy folk supergroup Parno Graszt, the Romanian Gypsy brass legends Fanfare Ciocarlia, Boban and Marko Markovic Orchestra, and other greats on the “not so mainstream” music scene.
Bob Rychlik (Fujara, Guitar, Mandolin, Charango, Fujara)- Czech Republic
Bob was born in Czechoslovakia, and in 1983 escaped the former communist country with his family, through Yugoslavia and Austria. He has been playing guitar, banjo and piano since his childhood, and later played in bands, organized country and blues festivals, and was teaching classical guitar in State Music School, later he continued teaching guitar and banjo after arriving in Maryland, where he has been living since 1984. Bob is multi-instrumentalist and internationally recognized player and teacher of fujara, koncovka and other overtone flutes. Among notable performances you would find Library of Congress, Kennedy Center, TEDx Naperville, World Flute Convention in Eau Claire, National Flute Association Convention in San Diego, but also many Folk Festivals in Washington D.C. and Maryland, ethnic festivals in Baltimore, Miami, San Diego, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arkansas, NATO Headquarters at Norfolk, Embassies of Slovakia, France and Czech republic.. He established, co-organized, and performed at International fujara festivals in Slovakia, and was teaching fujara workshops in US, Slovakia and Czech Republic. He appeared with fujara in film, on TV, and radio in US, Czech and Slovak republic, and has been teaching fujara and koncovka week course at Common Ground on the Hill at McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland every year since 2011.
David Keplinger (Vocals) – USA
David Keplinger is a professor and poet, and the author of five collections: most recently Another City (Milkweed, 2018), which was awarded 2019 Rilke Prize. Among his other collections are The Most Natural Thing (New Issues, 2013) and The Prayers of Others (New Issues, 2006) , which won the Colorado Book Award. His first book, The Rose Inside, was chosen by the poet Mary Oliver for the 1999 T.S. Eliot Prize. Keplinger has been awarded the Cavafy Prize from Poetry International, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2011 he produced By and By, an album of eleven songs based on the poetry of his great-great grandfather, a Civil War veteran. He performed and presented on the project at the National Portrait Gallery’s Donald W. Reynolds Center in 2013.