Various Artists

Gypsy Music of the Balkans

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ARC has put out a series of gypsy recordings from throughout the expanses of Eastern Europe (and Western Europe as well, really). In and of itself then, this one shouldn't be much different than the plethora of albums on the market. However, this album of music from the Balkans provides a series of surprises, not holding to the stereotypical and traditional bands and their styles. Certainly there are hints of the fiery Eastern European groups and their ilk (Taraf de Haidouks, Fanfare Cioc√£rlia, etc), but the music here goes beyond that. The album opens with Sarajevo's Sarr-e-Roma and a song with a sultry, slinky vocal laid over the top of an ultra-high-tempo bounce and vocal accentuations that almost push it into the Eastern European dancehall form. A few songs later, Sarr-e-Roma returns with a deep and mournful piece of music almost in the realm of flamenco. Speaking of flamenco, Langa, from Northern Slovenia, plays some excellent romping music reminiscent of the "flamenco" from Southern France (as popularized by the Gipsy Kings). More relaxed and traditional pieces come from the likes of Vlatko Stefanovski and Ezerki (hailed in the Croatian press as the Macedonian analog of the Chieftains or the Buena Vista Social Club). Before the album is over, Sarr-e-Roma returns with some rock-influenced sounds, Langa commandeers a dulcimer for a more contemplative number, and the ebb and flow of energy between the contemporary iconoclasts and the somber clarinet of Vlatko repeats a couple of additional times. The album goes beyond what many would think of as traditional gypsy music, incorporating more modern sounds but also keeping an eye on those a little truer to the original forms (largely from Macedonia). For a quick and basic overview of Balkan gypsy music, this is really a fine choice.

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