The Rummage

Tag: Serbia

. issue X : vii .

. artist : balkanize! .
. album : balkan eyes .
. year : 2010 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : b plus .

Balkanize

Balkanize! describe themselves as “Richmond, Virginia’s only ensemble of old world Turko-Balkan folk music.” This is their first recording, and it’s an excellent debut. Performing other peoples’ folk music is fraught with issues, and this band navigates them quite effectively. For starters, they’re quite facile on many of the exotic instruments that you typically hear in the region, like darbuka (the hand drum commonly used in this kind of music), saz and oud (two different styles of lutes, relatives of the guitar and mandolin). Vocals can really be a challenge in this type of ensemble, especially when you’re singing in foreign languages, but vocals turn out to be one of Balkanize!’s strengths: both Nancy Smith and Julie Bright are strong singers, and their harmonies (very much in the style of Hungarian bands like Muzikas) are truly superb. Balkan Eyes offers eight songs from eight different countries (perhaps in eight different languages?), all related but distinctly different, all performed with skill, energy and obvious pleasure, and totally accessible to a general audience.

by Bill Lupoletti

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. issue VIII : vii .

. artist : boban i marko markovic orkestar .
. album : golden horns .
. year : 2012 .
. label : piranha .
. grade : a .

Boban

Contemporary Balkan brass band music is the product of a confluence of influences, most directly Roma (gypsy) musical traditions and the Ottoman Empire’s military bands. The best Balkan brass players are world-class virtuosos (after hearing a few, Miles Davis famously said, “I didn’t know you could play the trumpet that way”) and musical omnivores. As was jazz in its early years, today’s Balkan brass music is complex, innovative and at the same time fabulous for dancing, partying and generally overindulging. Serbia’s Boban Markovic has been among the top players in Balkan brass for almost 30 years; his son Marko is following in Boban’s footsteps and assumed leadership of the band in 2006. This greatest-hits collection, curated by Robert Soko, one of Europe’s leading “Balkan beats” DJs, is an ideal introduction to one of the world’s outstanding ensembles. Many veins of the Markovic sound are mined: you get Roma music uptempo (“Rromano Bijav”) and in ballad form (“Obecanje”), funk (“Od Srca”), rap (yes, Marko does that, too, “Sljivovica”), the Jewish tinge (“Hava Naguila”), and Balkan-beat remix (“Go Marko Go”). Great stuff, all of it.

by Bill Lupoletti