We are working on a series of article with some awesome pictures and few old jokes we want to share with you.
Stay put !
Kočani Orkestar played at Balkan Trafic this very friday ! They had loads of fun and left happy but tired !
Right now, they are working on a new and special project, but shoosh…
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.
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
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).
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).
The band’s first album for Crammed (1997), which introduced them to international audiences.
From the original press release:
Kocani Orkestar comes from the city of Kocani, in the new Republic Of Macedonia (ex-Yugoslavia). Performed by two trumpets, three tubas, saxophone, clarinet, zurla (traditional oboe) and percussion, their style of music is aptly described in their region as Romska Orientalna Musika – ‘Rom’ meaning ‘Gypsy’. It is a potent mixture of powerful brass band sounds, Turkish/Bulgarian rhythms (including characteristic asymetrical time signatures such as 7/8, 9/8 etc., which are sometimes called ‘Aksak’ in traditional Turkish music), and Eastern-style solos which are at the same time very skillful, inspired and wild.
The material, which is very creatively arranged by band-leader Naat Veliov, comes from a variety of sources: traditional dance music from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, elements of rumba and salsa, and even Indian film music. As for this album’s title-track (“The Orient Is Red”), it is based on a famous Communist Chinese song which had apparently achieved pop hit status in Yugoslavia during the Tito era…
A live performance of the Kocani Orkestar is a formidable and exciting experience. We’re confident that a good deal of this excitement is successfully conveyed by this new album, which was recorded in Skopje (Macedonia) by Vincent Kenis, CramWorld resident producer who is also responsible for albums by Zap Mama and Taraf de Haïdouks, and for the Congotronics Series.
Kocani Orkestar has been touring extensively throughout Europe. They’ve created a sensation at major events such as the Roskilde Festival (Denmark), Womad (UK), Sfinks (Belgium), Festival Jazz de La Villette (France), Lucerne Jazz Festival (Switzerland), Megaevento delle FAO Roma (Italy) etc., and Les Méditerranéennes de Céret (France), where they’ve also performed pieces together with Khaled.
To celebrate their 25th anniversary, acclaimed Rom band Taraf de Haïdouks are revisiting some of the old styles which have enchanted Western audiences on their earlier albums: Gypsy love songs, poignant Romanian ballads and old-school dance tunes, alongside those Turkish-flavoured instrumentals they’ve grown to love. Let’s all join the party!
For the first time since the sad demise of their oldest vocalists (Ion Manole, Neculae Neacsu, Cacurica and Ilie Iorga), Taraf de Haïdouks are revisiting some of their ancient styles, and are taking a retrospective look at their career. Some of their former collaborators have been re-enlisted, such as superb vocalists Tsagoi (the son of the legendary, late Neacsu) and Gheorghe Manole (who has mastered the repertoire of his father, the great Ion Manole), as well as the flamboyant Viorica Rudareasa, the woman who sang the band’s iconic song “Dumbala Dumba”.
Thus does the Taraf de Haïdouks’ music keep morphing: far from being a fixed, monolithic canon, it has been absorbing and recycling old & new elements. The band was formed back in 1990, by individual musicians who, until then, had only been playing in various combinations at the village’s social rituals (baptisms, weddings, funerals, harvests etc). By then, ‘foreign’ accordions had already found a place amidst the violins and cymbalums, and the repertoire of the lautari (traditional Rom musicians) was peppered with cabaret flavours from the city. Then came Turkish melodies and rhythms and, more recently, the influence of popular urban manele (which actually derives frommanea, an old ‘oriental’ lautar style). The harmonies and structures became more complex, the playing more virtuosic, and the balance between vocal and instrumental pieces gradually shifted in favour of the latter.
In this anniversary album, Taraf de Haïdouks have weaved it all back together into a rich tapestry of styles, which pays tribute to their parents’ generation.
TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS ARE:
Described by a UK daily newspaper as “The best Gypsy band in the world”, Taraf de Haïdouks are considered as the epitome of Gypsy music’s fabulous vitality ever since the release of their debut album and their first visit to western Europe back in 1990. They’ve relentlessly toured all around the globe, have released acclaimed albums, and their countless fans include people like the late Yehudi Menuhin, Kronos Quartet (with whom they’ve recorded and performed), actor Johnny Depp (alongside whom they appeared in the film “The Man Who Cried”), fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto (who invited them to be models-cum-musicians for his Paris and Tokyo shows) choreographer Pina Bausch, Stephan Eicher and many more. Their music was used in numerous films, such as Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm” and “Train of Life” by Radu Mihaileanu. Meanwhile, the band members seem to have been relatively unaffected by all this attention, they’ve retained their sense of humour, and their way of life (they still reside in their modest village of Clejani, in the Wallachian countryside).