Various Artists

The Rough Guide to the Music of the Balkans

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This collection contains music of great charm and distinction. If there is such a thing as a "Balkan sound" it is a melange of different ethnic influences ranging from Turkish cadences to ancient Albanian polyphonies. Plus Gypsy music! One common element is that the rhythms are frequently complex as well as irresistibly forward-moving. An example of all of the foregoing can be found in the track, "Djeli Mara" by Saban Bajramovic and backed by the very talented Mostar Sevdah Reunion. It starts off slow with an acoustic guitar, like the opening of a flamenco piece. Then a wall of Gypsy sounds crashes down on you, sounding like Klezmer (or maybe it's the other way around). By the end, the drums establish a shuffle that sounds like French musette. (Mostar's other track on the disc has the same quality.) That flamenco sound is held up by Esma Redzepova, a Gypsy from Macedonia. She definitely brings that heart-wrenching quality the Spanish call "duende" to her singing. It's not possible to go over every track, but it must be mentioned that there are several brass band numbers, all of them expertly played and very catchy. If you have even the slightest interest in the music of the region, you should check out The Rough Guide to the Music of the Balkans.

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