A flawed but admirable attempt at combining modern beats and traditional Balkan music. The latest attempt to bring Balkan sounds to the dancefloors and airwaves of the nation comes on the back of the success of Romanian Roma band Fanfare Ciocarlia and German DJ Shantel in this year’s Awards for World Music.
The latter gets us under way with the ubiquitous Bucovina, a catchy mix of traditional Ukrainian dance music and dance beats. The aim of the compilation seems to be to draw in the mainstream club-goer with tracks embellished (some might say intruded upon) by the familiar uniform 4/4 beat of the nation’s dancefloors, then gradually introduce more fluctuating rhythms and organic tunes to the unwitting listener.
Arguably, many of the early songs simply don’t need the extra help in the first place. Mahala Rai Banda’s Mahalgeasca has some wonderful chugging, chattering brass and fluid percussion without really requiring extra studio adornment. By the time we get to Senor Cocoñut’s ska-cumbia remix of the legendary Macedonian ensemble Koçani Orkestar six tracks in, this listener is well and truly ready for the more naturalistic, raw sound for which the best of this kind of music is renowned.
Which is just as well, because along come Mahala’s Spoitoresa and Fanfare Ciocarlia’s Hora Andalusia to reflect the true funky appeal of Eastern European brass band music. Things keep getting better through Koçani Orchestra’s blasting, grittily sensual Mi Bori Sa Korani right up to the exuberant anarchy of Dostlar Bizim Halaya (Come To Dance) by Buzuki Orhan Osman featuring King Naat Veliov & Original Koçani Orkestar.
Slap bang in the middle of these captivating examples of joyous dance music, however, is Gogol Bordello’s Start Wearing Purple, a track as cumbersome as the compilation’s title and whose dubious place here is rendered even more incongruous by its appearance managing to break up the natural flow of the compilation.
That flow is brought to a halt anyway by further re-mixes of earlier tracks that round off the selection. This has a slight air of missed opportunity about it, because a well-sequenced compilation is a rare thing these days, and a subtler progression (Gogol apart) including more original material would make for a far more rewarding listening experience.
For those wondering where to go next at the sharp end of this rich seam of music — well, as the old Irish saying goes: you probably wouldn’t want to be starting from here. But if you are, you could do worse next than to arm yourself with a copy of Garth Cartwright’s book Princes Amongst Men and a bookmark to the Passion Dics website http://www.passiondiscs.co.uk/.
Then just let your imagination, and ears, continue the musical journey into the intriguing heartlands of traditional Eastern European music….
This review was first published on Fly:-