Stefan Hantel, aka Shantel, is German, but his love and respect for Eastern European and Arab music infuse the tracks he's put together for this collection. The worldwide popularity of hip-hop and club beats can often make one fear for the future of indigenous sounds, but Shantel has found a way to mash the fractured rhythms of the Balkans, Israel, North Africa, and various Gypsy cultures into the basic disco thump without diluting these ancient traditions. This is billed as a solo album, but it's a solo album in the style of Manu Chao or Rachid Taha, filled with an international smorgasbord of guests who are tops in their respective fields, from Bulgarian clarinetist Filip Simeonov from Taraf de Haïdouks to Uzi Feinerman and Uri Kinrot, lead guitarists from the Israeli ethnic folk-rock band Boom Pam. Every track is a multinational mash-up full of insane good humor and booty-bouncing beats guaranteed to get you out of you seat and onto the dancefloor. The title track is a good example: an accordion introduces a reggae-ized disc thump with wild Balkan horns, burping tuba, and the dueling electric guitars of Uzi Feinerman and Uri Kinrot dropping licks that reference everything from surf music to Egyptian pop. Balkan folk-jazz singer Vesna Petkovic's lilting presence complements Shantel's good-time vocals. "Disko Boy" starts out sounding like a classic ska track from Studio One, then the Gypsy brass comes in and Shantel starts rapping about dancefloor romance, his vocal melody suggesting both Russian Gypsies and intoxicated klezmer dancers. François Castiello, accordionist with the French band Bratsch, slips in a solo that suggests Parisian street cafés full of flamenco guitarists. "Sota" is a traditional Bulgarian wedding tune played over a thumping house beat, with another bravura vocal by Vesna Petkovic. Greek singer Jannis Karis adds his soulful grit to "Immigrant Child," another pounding piece of disco-ska accented by the frenzied sound of a Balkan Gypsy brass band. "Dubstar Burarskji" combines hip-hop, soul, and Gypsy rhythms and features a vocal by Miss Platnum (Ruth Maria Renner, a Berlin-based Romanian R&B vocalist) and dizzying solos from Filip Simeonov's clarinet and Roy Paci's trumpet. Every track on this 14-tune salvo brings new delights, integrating Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Jamaican, and African-American beats with a wild abandon that bodes well for the future of a new global pop music.
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