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Sad news this november

Stephane Karo's portrait
Picture of Stephane, smoking as usual


We are very sad to announce that Stéphane Karo, co-originator and musical director of Taraf de Haïdouks passed away on November 15 in Brussels. He was 56.


Originally a musician, Stéphane was a member of Des Airs in the early 80s (which also included Bob Vanderbob, Zap Mama co-founder Fanchon Nuyens and improv vocalist Catherine Jauniaux), then of a band called Les Djinns, and he also recorded with rock band Minimal Compact. In the late 80s, he heard about the Romanian village of Clejani and its dozens of extraordinary Roma musicians, and made the trip there with his friend Michel Winter, just before the fall of Ceaucescu.

The pair fell in love with the people of Clejani and their music, conceived the idea to create a permanent, 12-piece band which blended various instrumental and vocal styles, and worked hard to bring the newly-christened Taraf de Haïdouks to Western Europe, where they recorded their first album in 1990 for Crammed Discs.

The rest is history: Taraf de Haïdouks became the leading Balkan Gypsy band worldwide and -under Karo & Winter’s guidance- opened many doors for a wave of Roma bands in the following years.

Taraf de Haïdouks went on to record and release 7 more albums (the latest being “Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts” in 2015), all for Crammed Discs, and all under Stéphane Karo’s musical direction. Meanwhile, Stéphane (and Michel) had also discovered and started working with bands such as the Koçani Orkestar and Mahala Raï Banda.

Stéphane was married with Margareta Manole (daughter, sister, cousin to many of the Taraf’s musicians), whom he met during his first visit to Clejani. Their story inspired filmmaker Tony Gatlif to write his acclaimed movie “Gadjo Dilo”.

He was an extraordinary person, an extravagant, inspired prince of sorts, loved and admired by everyone who crossed his path. He was buried in Brussels on Sat. 19 Nov, accompanied by a crowd of friends and fans, and by the sound of several members of Taraf de Haïdouks, who came from Romania for the occasion. He will be sorely missed by many. Or thoughts are with his wife Margareta and his daughters Sarah, Elza and Norah.

If there is any sweet memory or anecdote you would like to share with us, feel free to add a little comment.

We will not stop here, concerts will still be organized, stay put !


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Notre flûtiste bien-aimé s’en est allé.




Arrivé seul en train dans la grande banlieue de Bucarest à l’âge de quinze ans, sans bagage et sans regret. Il laissait derrière lui ses parents son village natal, Valea Seaca, la vallée du ruisseau, petit bourg de Moldavie.

Autodidacte, rien ne le prédestinait à devenir (lautari) musicien. Il fredonnait, retiré en forêt, imitant le chant des oiseaux.

Il se retrouva rapidement une petite place dans un restaurant ou débute sa carrière. Il avait déjà sa flûte entre les mains et quelques mélodies populaires apprises sur le tas en écoutant la radio. Sans doute las de cette vie solitaire, Il décida de rejoindre une sœur, inconnue, et mariée à Clejani.

Son apprentissage de Lautari commença très vite, il joua dans les mariages et s’endurcit, d’abord à la contrebasse ensuite de sa flûte.  A coups de savates et de coups bas, Il acquit le répertoire de Clejani, toutes ses entourloupes, ses coups fourrés et gimmicks qui sont le langage des musiciens, indiquant les changements de mélodies.

Enfin, les autres jugèrent un jour qu’il’ était digne d’être intégré dans le Taraf  “officiel”.

En 1991, il entrait dans le Taraf de Haïdouks et il nous accompagna pendant 25 ans, toujours soucieux de son maintien, impeccable dans ses costumes trop large. Il ne venait jamais sans son fer à repasser, ses cigarettes et son attaché-case, ‘’sa diplomat ‘’comme on dit en roumain, toujours vide ne contenant que sa flûte.

Fluerici nous a quitté, comme beaucoup d’autres, d’un cancer le 14 septembre en début d’après-midi. Jamais soigné, il refusait d’être interné dans un hôpital.




Stéphane Karo

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Band Of Gypsies

Band of Gypsies BoG - CD

Recorded in Bucharest during three special concerts and additional studio recordings in december 2000, “Band Of Gypsies” is the fourth album by Romanian band Taraf de Haïdouks.

Always eager to expand the scope of their music, the “best Gypsy band in the world” (as recently described by UK daily The Independent)  decided to confront their styles to those of other Balkan countries by inviting Gypsy virtuoso musicians from Macedonia (the Koçani Orkestar brass band), Bulgaria (clarinet player Filip Simeonov) and Turkey (percussionist Tarik Tuysuzoglu) to join them on stage. The result is a series of exciting mixtures in which magical moments abound.

Along with these ambitious compositions one will rediscover with great pleasure the fantastic atmosphere of a Taraf de Haïdouks live performance in a collection of previously-unrecorded pieces featuring the various singers and soloists in top form and particularly galvanized by the importance of the event. These were indeed the band’s first ever concerts in the Romanian capital; after ten years of international success the Taraf were still not recognized in their own country (maybe because they were perceived as Gypsies rather than as musicians).

The event was documented in a film by young French/Gypsy director Elsa Gatlif (Tony Gatlif’s daughter), which is to be found in Taraf de Haïdouks’ DVD.


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Band of Gypsies 2

Band of Gypsies 2BoG-CD

Two of the major Gypsy groups join forces to create a big band!

Taraf de Haïdouks and Kocani Orkestar are undoubtedly two of the most famous and emblematic Balkan Gypsy bands. Started in 1991 in the small Romanian village of Clejani, the “band of honourable brigands” (that’s the literal translation of “Taraf de Haïdouks”) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by launching an ambitious project: a kind of Balkan big band, in which the 13 Taraf musicians and singers are joined by the 13 members of Macedonia’s Koçani Orkestar, one of the top brass bands around. The big band has recorded a new album, and will be touring from the spring 2011 on.

The name of this collaborative ensemble, Band Of Gypsies, is (among others) a reference to Taraf de Haïdouks milestone 2001 album, which included three tracks in collaboration with Koçani Orkestar. This time the plan is more ambitious: all the pieces of this entirely new repertoire are written, arranged and performed by an impressive, 26-piece orchestra, which explores all the contrasts between the two bands’ rich, respective textures. The swirling and fiery violins, cimbalums and accordions of Taraf de Haïdouks are engaging in exciting combinations and interplay with the mighty, funky brass and percussion of Koçani Orkestar.

The compositions dig deep into the various sources which have been inspiring the two bands for years: traditional music from the Romanian countryside, urban Balkan pop, medieval ballads, so-called oriental brass band music, Turkish, Jewish, Greek and even Indian influences… It’s therefore an album which gathers elements from all over the Balkans, from Romania, Macedonia and Serbia to Bulgaria, Turkey and beyond, all weaved into powerful and sophisticated arrangements.

Band of Gypsies (the band and the new album) is a project based on encounters and exchanges, in more than one way. In twenty years of existence, Taraf de Haïdouks has seen a generational change. Three of the oldest members have passed away, the former “young guard” has reached middle age… but the group now includes no less than four young musicians, sons of four of the band members. Koçani Orkestar has also rejuvenated itself in a spectacular way during the past two years, with the arrival of several brilliant musicians who are in their twenties.

Yes… encounters between styles and generations, but also between musicians of different origins and cultures: let’s remember that, while both bands consist of Rom musicians, the members of Taraf de Haïdouks speak Romanian (a Romance language) and are Christians, whereas the members of Koçani Orkestar speak Macedonian (a Slavic language) and an ancient Turkish dialect, and are Muslims (they’re linked to Sufi local brotherhoods, a heritage of the Ottoman empire’s lasting influence on that region of the Balkans). They communicate with each other via various Rom dialects, different but mutually-understandable… and, of course, mostly through the universal language of music.

As was the case for all 5 previous Taraf de Haïdouks albums and all 4 Koçani Orkestar albums, the musical direction and the arrangements were entrusted to the able hands of Stéphane Karo (who has been working with the two bands since their early days, both as their artistic director and as the coordinator of their live shows, with his agency Divano Production). The album was mixed by top-notch Belgian engineer/producer Christine Verschorren, who has worked with a variety of bands, from the cream of the local rock scene (Ghinzu, Absynthe Minded, Zita Swoon) to Lonely Drifter Karen to jazz and world music artists including Habib Koité and many more.

Album out in April on Crammed Discs
Concerts throughout 2011 and 2012

Tracks list

  1. I Am a Gigolo
  2. Pe Drumul Odesei
  3. Mandrulita Mea
  4. Talk To Me, Duso
  5. Turceasca A Lu Kalo
  6. Jarretelle
  7. Ou Cours-Tu, Nostalgie? Apres Toi Mon Amour
  8. Dikhel Khelel
  9. A Couteaux Tires, Atika
  10. Sara
  11. 100 Millions
  12. Gypsy Sahara
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The Ravished Bride

The Ravished Bride
Kocani Orkestar CD

Here’s the long-awaited new album by the funkiest Balkan band, the one and only Koçani Orkestar. Since the release of their previous opus Alone At My Wedding, Kocani have been championed by everyone from jazzman Paolo Fresú to Balkan Beat Box, Cibelle and indie rockers like Zach Condon/Beirut (who described them as “my favourite Balkan band… Gypsy music at its most delirious and drunken best”).

The Ravished Bride is undoubtedly their strongest album so far: the power and excitement of the band’s explosive live performances is masterfully translated, and the arrangements are more inventive than ever. Many of the tracks on The Ravished Bride are romantic or epic love songs, carried by the thrilling, undulating voice of charismatic young singer Ajnur Azizov, and exploring new directions in Balkan pop. There’s also an unexpected foray into the Latin world, with a rendition of Mexican standard ‘La Llorona’, and a nod to the band’s roots with a couple of traditional Macedonian pieces.

Some of the instrumental pieces lean towards what could be described as ’60s spy movie themes or surf music – an impression strengthened by the presence of guest guitarist Uri Kinrot (from Balkan Beat Box and Boom Pam). With further assistance from a second guest guitarist (co-producer Vincent Kenis) and a drummer (adding snare drum & hi hat to offset the traditional tapan), the album often has a definite rock undertone, which perfectly complements classic Koçani elements such as driving horn section arrangements and wailing, lyrical taksims (instrumental solos), courtesy of sax player Durak Demirov, trumpeters Turan Gaberov & Shukri Kadriev, and Djeladin Demirov on clarinet.

This is the Koçani Orkestar’s 3rd album from Crammed Discs, after Alone At My Wedding (get the conceptual continuity ?…) in 2002 and L’Orient est rouge in 1997, with which the band took the Western world by surprise. Their powerful rhythm section, their passionate soloists, and the sheer funkiness of their beats would lead any audience to break into dance… despite the fact that Koçani Orkestar use many asymetrical rhythms, those 7/8 or 9/8 time signatures sometimes called “Aksak” in traditional Turkish music (Balkan brass bands originally appeared in the 19th century, and were inspired by the military brass bands of the Turkish janissaries).

The band’s popularity rose to new heights with the release of Alone At My Wedding, for which their line-up was rejuvenated: original trumpet player Naat Veliov left, and several younger players joined the band. The repertoire transcended the strict boundaries of the brass band genre, with the exploration of “salon music” played during wedding parties in Macedonia, and the integration of more subtle instruments such as darbuka, banjo and clarinet.

This album became a favourite among young artists in the US and the UK, most notably the budding indie rock sensation Zach Condon aka Beirut, who covered several Koçani Orkestar tunes, constantly referenced them in his interviews and even performed with them at a special concert for La Blogotheque in Paris.

The band have also been championed by artists as diverse as Balkan Beat Box and Cibelle, and have had tracks remixed/reinterpreted by prominent artists in the fields of world music, electronic and rock music (from Señor Coconut, Animal Collective, Lightning Head and Susheela Raman to Mercan Dede, Smadj and Buscemi), all of which helped them gain a wider audience, as did the inclusion of one of their tracks in the soundtrack to the movie Borat.

Koçani Orkestar have performed at many major world music festivals around the world. They have collaborated with Italian singer Vinicio Capossella, with jazz trumpet player Paolo Fresú, and with Taraf de Haïdouks, who invited them to Bucharest to perform on their Band Of Gypsies live album.

Just like the previous two, this album is being coproduced by Stephane Karo (who also works with Taraf de Haïdouks and Mahala Raï Banda) and Vincent Kenis (who produced many classic Crammed Discs albums, from Taraf de Haidouks to Zap Mama to Konono N°1, Kasai Allstars and the Congotronics series).

Tracks list

  1. Sokeres
  2. Romani Caj
  3. Atlantis
  4. La Llorona
  5. Papigo
  6. Mangelma Stoposto
  7. Gelum Ko Bijav
  8. Kalino Mome
  9. Hajde Te Kelas
  10. Sahara Dreams
  11. Kodraka
  12. Divanosko
  13. But Katili
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Alone At My Wedding

Alone At My Wedding

Alone At My Wedding
After their adventures alongside the Taraf de Haïdouks (on the acclaimed and awarded “Band Of Gypsies” album), the mighty Macedonian brass band continued to broaden their scope in this exciting album devoted to Gypsy wedding music.


With their  expanded line-up, mighty Macedonian brass band Koçani Orkestar are wilder than ever, getting the entire audience up on their feet & dancing at every concert. Their music is still based on Gypsy tunes from various parts of the Balkans and on Turkish/Bulgarian rhythms, with a sprinkle of Latin flavour… but this album is particularly devoted to the repertoire played by Gypsy bands during wedding celebrations in Macedonia. This enables the Koçani Orkestar to transcend the strict boundaries of the brass band genre : half of the tracks showcase the vocal talents of their two new singers (charismatic, young Aljur Azizov and accordionist Zlate Nikolov), and there are several small ensemble pieces featuring instruments such as darbuka, banjo and clarinet. The band’s popular trademark thundering style is present as ever, with its powerful rhythm section (drummer + four tubas) which rocks like a mutant Balkan funk band, and its wailing, passionate soloists (Ismail Saliev on sax, Turan Gaberov on trumpet and Deladin Demirov on clarinet).



  • smael Saliev : alto sax, vocals
  • Ajlur Azizov : vocals
  • Deladin Demirov : clarinet
  • Zlate Nikolov : accordion, vocals
  • Turan Gaberov : trumpet
  • Sukri Kadrievi : trumpet
  • Saban Jasarov : tapan
  • Redzai Durmisev : tuba
  • Mendu Saliev : tuba
  • Esat Saliev : tuba
  • Ismail Jasarov : bass tuba


  • Rakip Kazimov : djumbus, vocals
  • Zivko Ognjavov : darbuka
  • Nusret Bajranov : trumpet
  • Aurel Ionitsa : violin
  • Stephane Karo : trumpet

Tracks list

  1. Siki, Siki Baba
  2. Oi Bori Sujie
  3. Cudna Zena
  4.  Mi Bori Sar Korani
  5. Bayram Sekeri
  6. Usti, Usti Baba/Rumunsko Gazal
  7. Stamena
  8. Marsilia Oro
  9. Alim Korkori Ko Bijav
  10. Fantaisia For Clarinet
  11. Ucime Majko
  12. Ismail Oro
  13. Zen Nube
  14. Goodbye Macedonia