It’s probably stating the obvious but for all sorts of reasons, the music from the Balkans can be found all over the globe in various adaptations but this latest compilation on Green Queen Music is a healthy thermometer, London is the place for Balkan Fever London: mind the brass!
Compiled by the leading promoter of Balkan music in the UK, DJ and fiddle player, Seb Merrick, here is an array of music that you could easily come across in South and North Americas, West and Eastern Europe and beyond. The fact that his is the current ‘popular’ form hails from about 20 years ago with the music of Goran Bregoviƒá in the films of Emir Kusturica and then with the uprising of moustache villain Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box who took made the infectious roots music vibrant and danceable again.
And perhaps even more impressive, the UK Balkan tradition does not confine itself to any traditional music rules and is a multi-cultural and varied as any other underground music scene (especially these days).
So whether your Balkan Fever is in Acton or Walthamstow, your likely to be able to find vibrant live performances somewhere in town that can, in Seb’s words can absolutely “hold it’s own in both the wider and/or more traditional arenas.”
This 13 track compilation by new and experienced bands are not limited to just London but also from all around the UK like hot spots in Brighton, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Sheffield, Bristol, Nottingham, Birmingham and Manchester.
With that in mind, this new wave are not purists, it’s as likely to be ska, world, hip-hop. Latin, jazz, brass band influenced and “remodelled” most likely with a smile on their/your face; after all this is proper party music.
Most of the tracks on Balkan Fever are instrumental as London shows that no matter what your roots are, as long as you are speaking the first language of the world – music – then you are speaking a language that everyone can understand.
There are a number of tracks on the album that Seb’s got hold of as previously unreleased tracks like the opener, ‘Balaka’ by Gypsy Hill (now that’s clever, see links below) and features the flute expertise of Hungarian Besh o droM. Whilst this is new, if you ever found yourself bopping away to Gypsy Beats And Balkan Bangers, ‘Balaka’ is the start you’re looking for.
And talking of clever names, Edinburgh based Orkestra del Sol is another one and their ‘On Giants Shoulders’ finds them as the rightful heirs to the Fez of legends 3 Mustaphas 3 mixing Balkan and Latin brass with lots of fun that captures their live energy.
Those familiar with the album Sandanski’s Chicken will know the The She’Koyokh Klezmer Ensemble are regularly busking in East London’s Columbia Road Flower Market and their Django Reinhardt speed Klezmer ‘Bendi Glendi’ is excellent not just on a Sunday morning?
Now you’d have thought a Spanish Christmas carol in gypsy punk style would be a step too far but Alejandro Toledo has found some Magic Tombolinos for true extremism.
Newcastle’s The Baghdaddies are definitely out-there with a track called ‘Shri’ as it sounds like Duke Ellington’s classic ‘Caravan’ to start with and then gets warped by Indian ragas. What with Jonny Trunk playing a very rare John Meyer Indo Jazz Fusion on Flexidisc last week (see HERE for almost the fully story) and ‘Caravan’ being one of my all time favourites, this is a bit special; especially as it ends in total madness. You can join the dots with this one with Balkan-ska meets Jerry Dammers Spacial AKA Orchestra. Perhaps lines like “Spinning like an 8 Ball around the sun” is/isn’t pure Sun Ra but who cares – shut up and dance I say.
Perhaps that’s why most of this album in instrumental. Perhaps that’s why Death Ray Trebuchay’s Welsh language on ‘Number 6′ sounds just as Slavic (to this untrained ear) as anything by Serbia’s Guca brass festival (killer horn section on this one even if verges last train to Big Pit Brass Band – Ska Divison)
I think ‘Shri’ and ‘Number 6′ (remember Players?) are my favourites of the lot whilst regular readers with recall Koby Israelite from the King Papaya album that came out last year on Circus Mayhem. His Hendrix meets trad Romanian gypsy accordion of ‘Band of Gypsies’ mash up actually sits better on this compilation than his own album but it’s still not my favourite (on either album).
And the closing track, ‘Ali Baba’ featuring Deladap! from Vienna is too pop for me whilst Max Pashm’s Klezmer/Greek/Balkan ode to Winston Churchill with ‘Fight On The Streets’ a beach and a bridge too far?
Not to worry thought as this CD is constantly top grade and what with The Ukrainians (as championed by John Peel in the 1980s), they know how to dance on the steps of Soviet imperialism with ‘Exodus’ (not the Bob Marley anthem).
Now you wouldn’t think Balkan and dubstep wouldn’t work but ‘Bom Bom’ goes funky trumpet wobble for US College Marching Band meets London Town jazzsteppa dancefloor – Sam and the Womp pick up where N.O.H.A. caused mayhem with ‘Balkan Hot Step’ five years ago – BIG TUNE!!!!!!!!!!! This is one of the previously unreleased tracks and it’s going to blow up quicker than…..erm ‘Balkan Hot Step’!
DJ smash up collective Ghettoplotz get to work on a 1957 track by US Yiddish entertainer Mickey Katz with ‘Babyschlep’! It’s one for the youngster massive (ump pah dub style) and another one from where the hip kids hang out, ‘Unzer Toirele’ is what happens when a professional classical violinist catches the Balkan express.
‘Giza Stomp’ is yet another track previously unreleased and there’s definitely some vinyl ‘Best Of’ release here a Forty Thieves’ ‘Giza Stomp’ features the snaky smooth sound of FLY regular Idris Rahman (on clarinet) in a Aker Bilk meets the Balkan (Leyton) Orient – dub my beats bad boy.
I remember being in Fopp in Southampton one afternoon when Gypsy Beats and Balkan Bangers Too was released and it was near riots at the counter for it. Whilst Fopp is no more, Balkan Fever London (Mind the Brass) is enough to get the same reaction. And not only that, the album is the The Official Soundtrack to Balkan Rally!
What’s that? It’s a road rally from the West Country to Macedonia 30th July – 12 August 2010 with parties and music all along the way! -count me in, where’s me violin, clarinet and dancing shoes?
Reviewed: V/A – Balkan Fever London (Mind the Brass) (Green Queen Music) Cat. No: GQM013 Release date: 2 July 2010 (Worldwide Digital) 7 July 2010 (Italy) 19 July 2010 (UK)
1. Gypsy Hill – Balaka feat. Besh o droM (previously unreleased)
2. On Giants Shoulders – Orkestra del Sol
3. The She’Koyokh Klezmer Ensemble – Bendi Glendi
4. Alejandro Toledo & The Magic Tombolinos – Los Peces
5. The Baghdaddies – Shri
6. Death Ray Trebuchay – Number 6
7. Koby Israelite – Band of Gypsies
8. Max Pashm – Fight On The Streets
9. The Ukrainians – Vykhid (Exodus)
10. Sam and the Womp – Bom Bom (previously unreleased)
11. GhettoPlotz – Babyschlep
12. Forty Thieves – Giza Stomp (previously unreleased)
13. Chancery Blame & The Gadjo Club – Unzer Toirele
14. Dr Cat & DJ Pony feat. Deladap! – Ali Baba (previously unreleased) (4.22)
www.balkanrally.com Balkan Rally kicks off with a new festival Underhill Festival underhillfestival.co.uk
Gypsy Hill takes its name from the area of South London near Crystal Palace, where Gypsies once lived