Essay Rec.      Shantel : Disko Partizani (D/TÜ/GR/SE/RO/Ö/CAN/IS/UK,2008)***°
 
With Shantel’s new release (his first in seven years), Balkan sounds surely reaches multi-cultural club music, fusing the roots of pleasuremaking in music between many regions. The energy for this has been built up over the years.

Shantel started as an electronic music producer, but quickly became so interested and involved in East European music, especially after he looked for his own roots in the Bucovina region, an area that suffered from historical challenges, and is now split between Ukraine and Romania. When he returned to Frankfurt he started club nights called Club Bucovina, since 2003, to restore something of Buccavina’s musical and also multicultural atmosphere, for urban measures, which resulted in a first CD. This was also noticed in Buccovina as well, where Shantel was invited to play along big local groups.

Also this new album, with many participants from a wide spread region (from Romania to Turkey with a few guests also from outside, in roots-connecting regions), can be seen as wider spread multiculturalism, again urban friendly injection with the same Buccovina roots. The lyrics are light focused directly on the dance and music pleasures as if saying “don’t think too much, but FEEL it, by dancing with these Balkan sounds (with of course also the recognisable brass tunes). These new mixes are enriched with a bit of Turkish Pop and folk, and also, in a Turkish way, having made a bit of urban reggae and such as part of the rhythmic inspirations. The album is as light as it is rich, and is very successful with a Balkan sound spirit prepared perfectly for a wider audience, giving a light-to-enjoy entry to apreciate these sounds.

Personel : Shantel - (all instruments, vocals & programming); Marcus Darius -(drums, guitars & programming); Marko Markovic – (from Serbia, trumpet, flugelhorn & baritone horn); Vesna Petkovic – (from Serbia, vocals); François Castiello – (France, from the band Bratsch, accordion); Sorin Constantin – (vocals); Filip Simeonov – (from Bulgaria and from group Taraf de Haidouks, clarinet); Jannis Karis – (from Greece, vocals, oud, lauto, tzouras); Brenna MacCrimmon – (from Canada, vocals); Vladimir Karparov – (from Bulgaria, alto saxophone); Alexander Wladigeroff – (trumpet); Costas Ramos – (from Turkey, violin); Markus Schumacher – (Germany, from the band Äl Jawala, keyboards); Miss Platnum – (or Ruth Maria Renner, from Romania but living in Berlin,vocals); Uri Brauner Kinrot – (guitar); Uzi Feinerman – (guitar); Yuval “Tuby" Zolotov – (tuba); Kurt Bauer – (from Austria but also part of Israeli band Boom Pam,violin); Lothar Lässer – (also from band Boom Pam, diatonic accordion); Michael Bergbauer – (trombone); Yuriy Gurzhy – (from Ukraine, from band Russendisko, vocals); Ken Taylor - (from England,electric bass); Mantiz – (from Germany, vocals & shouts); Roy Paci – (trumpet).

Audio & info : http://www.myspace.com/shantelbucovinacluborkestar
Video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gViaOYgV8yI
Homepage : http://www.bucovina.de
Info on release : http://www.mybossa.com/blog/2007/10/shantel_disko_partizani.html
& http://www.essayrecordings.com/index_e.htm
& http://www.crammed.be/craworld/crw41/03.htm
& http://www.musicconnection.org.uk/body_shantel.html
Other reviews : http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/bbvr/
& http://www.boston.com/ae/music/cd_reviews/articles/2007/10/23/hello_balkan_beats/
& http://www.flyglobalmusic.com/fly/archives/europe_reviews/disko_partizani_shantel.html
& http://www.giantstep.net/features/196
German reviews : http://www.laut.de/lautstark/cd-reviews/s/shantel/disko_partizani/index.htm
& http://www.laut.de/wortlaut/artists/s/shantel/biographie/index.htm
BALKAN FUSIONS / CROSSOVERS / BEAT

O.M.F.O.Balkan Beat Box, Afenginn, Shantel, Vagalatschk (2x), Ahilea, 17 Hippies,
Lele Lele , La Fanfare Du Belgistan, "Balkan Grooves", "Swing Diskoteka",
Shazalakazoo, Slivovitz ; Analogik (link)
Essay Rec.     Balkan Beat Box (IS,US,2005)****'
 
The leading core of the Balkan Beat Box core is a duo of two Israeli's now living in New York: Ori Kaplan who plays saxophones, and Tamir Muskat (with a Rumanian mother) who's the drummer, programmer, and producer. Both guys moved to New York in search of and finding a more exciting music scene. Both guys played in numerous groups, mostly with an Eastern European or gypsy based music influence. They developed the idea to form an exciting vivid project/group of musicians and artists, which became Balkan Beat Box.
The music takes often Balkan brass fun as a vivid fundament, but takes almost anything to where their gypsy music feels at home, mostly starting from an East European flavour but opening it up to even Moroccan and Algerian influences, something which makes their music even more original. Rhythm and brass are mostly the real core of further explorations.

The first track, "chacha" makes such fun with samplers and is so playful with rhythmic foundations, that the idea how they landed at the Essay Recordings label (home of Senor Coconut) becomes logical. The group never loses exploration, mixed with a 'live' feeling that has an organic, spontaneous and rhythmic inspiration. We hear some Bulgarian singers on "Bulgarian Chicks" with a Balkan wedding brass band, mixed with some electronic rhythmic touches. "Adir Adirim" is a Turkish ? folk melody  with rather funny interpretations, and with female Arab ? vocals singing also "Alleluia" on funny dance rhythms, accompanied also by some darbuka, and somewhere also a great Moroccan (?) influence. After two more original explorations having created more different "Balkan music", "9/4 the ladies", "Sushan" and "Ya Man" are also highly original, in a different way. On the last track I hear the use of some African string instrument with more additional rhythms and African singing, mixed with the Balkan saxes and a metal bass, another new and successful combination. The last couple of tracks are most North-African in sound, like "Hassan's Mimuna". "Meboli" is again much different. It has very quickened beats, which gives the track a flavour of ska-like fun. The vocals on these rhythms become almost rap-like vocals fitting with the rhythm. The bass on these rhythms become almost an African jazz flavour. This was another clever example that gives a new original combination. "La Bush Resistance" is a political, by reggae-influenced track. It also has very original folk-electronica near the end.

"Balkan Beat Box" is a great album with all original tracks, and a perfect example of how tradition with modern rhythm can make a perfect vivid marriage with feast and all, and with the right people invited.

Audio : "'Bulgarian Chicks', 'Ya Man', 'La Bush Resistance'" (links on linked page)
& on http://www.myspace.com/balkanbeatbox
Homepage (with audio) : http://www.balkanbeatbox.com/
Blog with live pictures : http://balkanbeatbox.blogspot.com/
Info on label's site: http://www.essayrecordings.com/a_bbb.htm
Info page : http://www.jdubrecords.org/index.php?p=/artists.php?id=13
Articles : http://www.newvoices.org/cgi-bin/articlepage.cgi?id=456
& http://www.streetknowledge.net/archives/32
& http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5156870
Other review : http://www.giantstep.net/forums/1116/read/2061/
German review : http://www.laut.de/lautstark/cd-reviews/b/balkan_beat_box/balkan_beat_box/
Tutl Rec.            Afenginn : Akrobakkus (DK,2005)***'
 
This Danish chamber music ensemble obviously has inspiration from classical composition, Balkan ball music & gypsy fun & perhaps klezmer, with here and there fast polkas too, (with moments of ska-like fun and speed,..)... Their way of playing combines the energy of these mentioned genres. Their few fragments of harmony singing give also a post-punk fun touch, which is equally convincing. This whole new combination is called by the group bastard-ethno. The group shows a professional personal creativity, inspiration, and active interplay energy. But of course there are also calmer compositions, like “Fotonen” pulsating them forward, or some waltz here and there, which brings them to their most “normal” moments too. (A track like “Foroyska Kjotid” takes them closer to the style of some Belgian groups like DAAU). A strong release, which makes me guess the group will be able to give vivid performances with a few surprising directions. The group soon after this release won the Danish World Awards 2005.

Homepages with audio : http://www.afenginn.dk/ & http://www.myspace.com/afenginn
& http://cdbaby.com/cd/afenginn2
Label info : http://www.tutl.com/pub/index.php?id=30 and here
Other review : http://www.globalvillageidiot.net/ReviewsNovember2006.html
German review : http://www.nordische-musik.de/...
Dutch review : http://www.folkroddels.be/artikels/30279.html

Booking in Belgium/Holland : (with info page in English) : www.artistagency.be
Suisa     Vagalatschk : Marina (CH,2008)****

This mini album is inspired by the background of a fictive story about Pietrouschka from Valachie, a hard but imaginary area in Eastern Europe. When a girl refuses a settled marriage she flees to the capital but lands without knowing the city in a courthouse. The inhabitants however created a tool to protest against the exploitation of women forming an orchestra called Vagalatschk, now settling down in Europe showing with music as an alternative for situations where people dominate others.

The music is from a chamber-folk-rock band with female singer, which is song led music, with a large instrumental section, and with lots of vivid interactive playing, a mixture which includes Klezmer and Balkan music, and at times ska-fast rhythms with breaks of rhythm changes. By putting all their music in a theatrical concept, even the songs which sound like arranged Eastern European complaints, any of the Eastern European folk dances themes are never too far away, running wild, and then within a same track are also calmer improvised upon. The band uses electric guitars and drums to the traditional Eastern European instruments.

Audio & info : http://www.myspace.com/vagalatschk
Info sheet : http://www.arsene.ch/pdf/VAGALATSCHK_-_dossier_marina_08.pdf
French reviews : http://www.murmures.info/index.php?kro=4893&action=view
& on http://www.azimutfm.ch/page/2/   next album reviewed below->

Some members also play in The Raspoutine Smoked Band
It is a rock band witth some Balkan influence ; review on next page->
Essay Rec.   O.M.F.O. : Trans Balkan Express (UKR/NL,2004)****
 
Odessa refers to the largest harbour town on the Black Sea where an amalgam of nationalities have always lived and left their traces. It was German Popov, aka Our Man from Odessa’s birthplace and hometown. While he was raised up with music influences like Kraftwerk which were popular in the Sovjet Union, he developped an interest in electronic sounds. At the same time he grew up with lots of folklore sounds and traditional music, and he started to collect a huge collection of exotic musical instruments (from all over the Sovjet Union) and learned to play them properly. When in 1989 possibilities of travelling opened up, he took his gigantic collection with him to Amsterdam to present it there with club sounds, while playing traditional music, gangster ballads and his own creations with them at other locations. Another band, Sputnik, specialized in Russian filmmusic and made one CD. After his split with the band, OMFO was his solo project.

As catchy and equally funny as Senor Coconut’s salsa ? version of Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express” the album starts with their own Balkan version called “Trans Balkan Express”. German knows how to find the perfect middle between melodic traditional tunes and electronic rhythms which always seems to dance in between the tune, and are not at all just cheaply adapted as obvious rhythms, as what usually happens in the adaptations of world music in world beat and club rhythm driven music. It's perhaps because German feels the music from its origin, and its rhythmical inner drive.
On “Gutsul Electro” for instance the tunes and rhythms are almost interwoven. The rhythms are like a perfect osmosis mix of fastened traditional rhythms, with a ska-like fun, with a small influence of dub or at least with what has been learned as producer from that area or style.
Dolia” is just like a modern world version of a traditional, with all feelings-for-the-tune intact.
Tixi Rock” is more kitschy, like Cambodian/Thai hotel bar music casio fun.
"Chupino" is a Balkan traditional with extra well interwoven electronic rhythms, making the original even more attractive.
"Munteanul 2000" is also a speeded up traditional, and makes it impossible for the listener not to stand up and jump along with a tarantella-like effect of this mad uplifting tune. Also "Money Boney" and later on, "Magic Mamaliga" (with flute and funny speedy rhythm, letting me swap steamtrain rhythm arms and dance) or "Chackchak" (almost too fast as a helium voice into tune and rhythm) or "Drimba'n' Bass" (also so fast that one could lose their head by bouncing in this rhythmic feast) are similar.
Two tracks in between were different. “Sirtaki on Mars” is a Russian cosmonaut speaking (with robot-like voice) chill out tune, and “Taras” is also based upon playing on another typical Russian and gypsy traditional instrument with attractive keyboards and various rhythms and some voice.
"Cocoo Dub" is too fast and melodic to be called "dub". Here I have visions of Indian elephants, a silent movie in full colour. Various traditional instruments are used for this track.
Space Hora Dub” is a fine conclusion, another colourful fantasy which surpasses the dub genre, keeps all the folkloristic originality of making fun, and fulfils the wish to make perfect accessible crossover of old beauty in new cloth. Like what Kraftwerk did in a futurist vision to themes of modern life (computer, robots, barmusic, radioactivity, highway music, and the Trans Europe Express), OMFO adapts the old school of enjoyment and renews it’s inner energy.

A great album and one of the best examples of how tradition with modern rhythm makes a perfect marriage.

Audio : "Trans Balkan Express", "Magic Mamaliga", "Chupino"
Info on label's site: http://www.essayrecordings.com/a_omfo.htm
Other reviews : http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/record-reviews/o/omfo/trans-balkan-express.shtml
& http://www.tonevendor.com/item/18556 & www.forcedexposure.com/artists/omfo.html
& http://www.dustygroove.com/cgi-sys/...
& http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2004/080504/disc.html
German review with audio : http://www.indigo.de/unser_programm/titel/5893/
& http://www.suedwind.at/buecher/detail.asp?ID=3285    OMFO's 2009 release on next page->
VDE/Suisa     Vagalatschk : Krasnaia Valaschia (CH,2009)****

Vagalatschk’s album is released like a real book with illustrations, and music, a real piece of art work. It tells with written words (in French) and images the full story of Pietroushka (continuing where the first mini album gave only a first introduction), how this lady was promised for marriage, flees from home to keep her freedom to a town which leaves her facing even more chaos and misery, stories of friendship, alcohol and murder, a story in 14 parts (including illustrations and songs).  Sung in some East European language, the at first dramatic voice introduces the story, while following and making new (personal) traces of a gypsy journeys on walking rhythms, with improvised clarinet, trumpet, accordion and violin, drums and guitar, with tensions that come and go with life’s events. Within this filmic story, before events bring anything down, the story told in music which finds ways to survives in occasional improvisation, mixed with traditional folk traces which work like anchors of recognition of survival tricks which has been experienced by others many times before. Thoroughly this mix in music forms a life energy of its own, a dance on top of life, on the table, where nothing dares, and all finds a personal expression on top of each drama.

Audio & info : http://www.myspace.com/vagalatschk
Label : http://www.vdegallo.ch/cd_news.asp
Essay Rec.     Ahilea : Cafe Svetlana (MC/Ö,2009)***'

DJ Ahilea  (akja Ahilea Durcovski) has all the elements of his life to build a novel character, for he was born in no man’s land, and his Balkan origins were rooted in even more multi-cultural (country) border-less inspirations. He studied civil engineering and then art history and archaeology. When in Austria he became known as a DJ, when he was asked to assemble a group of Balkanists to present his own roots. And that’s what he did on this album. The DJ part is a steady predictable dance rhythm in bass and with loop-like patterns or character, of ska-like rhythms of fun based upon Balkan brass and accordeon music mixed with live performances and singing from a band called The Grand-Orchestre de Café Svetlana with many guests. This leads to occasional fun-making hints at other styles (I recognised Bauhaus on trip in the Balkan on one of the early tracks, but also making fun with Greek balalaika on “Monopolis”, or tango, or occasional German hiphop groove vocals), while the Balkan fundament itself (from Turkish over Roman gypsy over Balkan folk) is the real direct and live fun making thing with interventions on instruments like clarinet, accordeon and so on, while little enthusiastic screams or violin or cheek poppings or whatever can either be produced live or from DJ looped mixes interventions, with no difference in effect that they make. You have the impression there’s a lot happening, the direct street now-energy is omnipresent, while the rhythms themselves are safe and compfortable recognisable so that you easily adapt to the groove and take away the wider content.

Audio on http://www.emusic.com/..
Audio & info : www.myspace.com/exportimporttunes
Description : http://www.insound.com/Ahilea_Cafe_Svetlana_CD/productmain/p/INS55229/
Label info : http://www.essayrecordings.com/cd_ahilea.htm
Buda Musique/Hipster     17 Hippies : El dorado (D,2009)**°

I am a bit confused about the purpose of the range of styles, while musically it surely is entertaining, nice to listen to, but because most “real” songs are rather sad, the Balkan flavoured entertaining does not succeed well enough to compensate its sadness. Two songs are about someone departing, some about looking for a purpose or a place without finding a context. One song is a beer song, like Pogues folk cabaret. Some of these songs are in German, others in French or English. Luckily I understand all three languages. The Balkan/Turkish elements come over as if looking for a way to flee from here and find something else, something deeper, increasing the automatisms into some vividness without finding a replacement, the separate visions of singers and players is for real.

Audio on http://17hippies.de/hiplounge/musik/el-dorado/langswitch_lang/en/
& http://www.deezer.com/en/17-hippies/el-dorado-A271463.html
Audio & info : http://www.myspace.com/17hippies
German info : http://www.backata.com/index.php?newsid=1136
Other reviews : http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/mar/14/world-music-review
Dart Bird Music     Lele Lele (S/N/BG,2009)****'

I have been very enthusiastic since I first heard Lele Lele’s demo. Now I was pleased to see a professionally recorded official CD. With an education in Bulgarian folk as well as Indian classical music, the group developed a unique style mix rooted more in Bulgarian folk mostly, singing sometimes wordless (like the Indians do on rhythm/tala) to Bulgarian folk tunes adding a portion of humour. The CD itself sounded a bit more serious however, and with a few less surprises from the Indian proportions, while remaining a real absolute enjoyable album, from which I can still imagine what would happen additionally in a live concert. I have read that the Bulgarian dance folk live results often in Bulgarian ring dance in the audience, while the focus on improvisations gives the musicians some space to individual solos and further group developments of improvisations. The last and longest track has more focus on sitar developments. I hope someone now will book them in Belgium or somewhere close so that I can experience them more directly.

Audio : "Aide Rado", "Spela Världen Runt", "Det Är Nyttigt Att Vänta"
& http://www.myspace.com/lele_lele 
Homepage : http://lele-lele.se/
Info on http://www.sasnet.lu.se/lele.html

Demo review on http://psychemusic.org/INDIAWORLD.html#anchor_76
Irfan     La Fanfare du Belgistan : musique et danses du Belgistan (B/MOR,2009)****

The great mix of Balkan brassband with jazz and oriental music is reviewed on http://www.psychemusic.org/belgium3.html#anchor_164
Eastblok Music      V.A. : Balkan Grooves (VAR,2010)****

Eastblok Music based in Berlin is specialised in Balkan Beats music and has already several compilations out. This compilation proves how they have a perfect feeling for what is the real thing in this genre. Balkan Music has its own specific songs, approaches and areas where the music is played. But this music and the areas where this can be played is growing too. And when it entered the cities and found its way through DJ’s with a heart and soul in this music, the music itself changed with it and luckily was kept vividly alive. I had no moment where I thought of exploitation of anything. With just the addition of complex enough and more up tempo electronic rhythms, even when confirming the way a certain emphasized rhythm-based natuin of the performances, succeeds in adding something of the same real-life character. With the use of some live recorded professional, ethnically gifted lead voices and the use of different acoustic instruments, every track remains in balance with its origins of inspirations, and thus is only enriched by the dynamic tools of the mixing desk. Of course ragga, dub and Turkish pop have their share as influences too. And I even heard some flamenco guitar. And the last track used an old Rebetika recording, where after a while dub elements are added, and a different singer and some electric guitar, mixed in a second part brings the old song convincingly into our own modern areas and different environmental world. Most of this well fitting material is both convincing as dance floor pleasure bringing material as being interesting enough just to listening to as well. I am convinced.

Label : http://eastblok.de/ & http://www.myspace.com/eastblokmusic
Eastblok Music      V.A. : Swing Diskoteka (VAR,2011)****

The label succeeded again to compile like-minded bands and tracks together. How could they find so many fitting together tracks ? Of course this is discotheque minded, and all tracks make some reference to, sample from or more likely inspiration with the upbeat Balkan beats and brass arrangements. These beats are mixed with a complexity that makes it fine for the ears too. Even though the earliest tracks all have use of deep bass and drum machines, the good balance is always there between creative ear to sound and beats, exotic combinations of elements, with feast provoking beats, vocals and sounds. Very good again !

Label : http://eastblok.de/ & http://www.myspace.com/eastblokmusic
Eastblok Music      Shazalakazoo : Karton City Boom (SE,2011)**°°

Shazalakazoo is a band from Belgrade (Serbia) formed by Milan Djurić (usb-clarinet, plastic knobs, faders, rubber pads, silicon chips, singing and shouting) and Uros Petković (electric violin, turntable playtimes and silicon chips).  They very often succeed to replace the power and effect of a full Balkan brass band into a duo with lots of clever devices and good ears. There are some very well produced tracks that are really convincing for renewing tradition with new power and some speeded up tension. What they also include here and there is the tendency to lean onto the talk-based music like hip-hop or rap. Elsewhere the mixes with drum, bass and keyboards can sound a bit hard, more aggressive, like a male-powered gypsy Balkan music, even though they include female vocalists. A few other times the Balkan-brass arrangements are used like easy to use loop-samples, used for its inevitable associations, rooting back home, like a doorbell with a entity. But because this music is formed in their bones and they have a not to wipe out feeling for this music, they are often, or mostly capable of recreating the same folk-based origins into something that has more of electro-pop measurements.  Influenced by a wider world of origins that all come to Balkan end results, they call their new blend ‘folkstep’. I very much like what they did with the Turkish folk song on track 14, adding fast electronic rhythms, quickening speed, power and renew it with a boost. I am sure they will convince on live occasions. There is however little time to rest a bit.

Audio : http://soundcloud.com/neki-stranac/shazalakazoo-halls-preto-feat
Homepage : http://www.shazalakazoo.com/
Band info : http://www.gipsyjungle.com/2007/12/shazalakazoo.html
& http://www.last.fm/music/Shazalakazoo
Label info  : http://eastblok.de/catalog/... & http://www.myspace.com/eastblokmusic
next Crossover page :

"POLKA" CROSSOVERS->