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Tag: Boban Markovic

Boban i Marko Markovic Bring Undiluted Serbian Brass Intensity to NYC This Weekend

Arguably the highlight of this year’s annual New York Gypsy Festival, put on by the brain trust behind downtown global music mecca Drom, is the show this Sunday night, Oct 5 at 7:30 PM by South Serbian brass legends Boban i Marko Markovic at the Schimmel Auditorium at Pace University on Spruce St. in the financial district. Tix are very pricy, $39, but if recent albums and the live footage at the group’s youtube channel are to be trusted, the show could be worth it.

Group founder and flugelhorn player Boban Markovic has since passed the bandleader role to his trumpeter son Marko, continuing a tradition that’s seen the ensemble take top honors not once but twice at the annual trumpet showdown in Guca, Serbia. Their latest album, Gipsy Manifesto (streaming at Spotify), came out last year. On the one before that, Balkan Brass Battle, the massive brass orchestra find themselves dueling in a ferocious but friendly collaboration with the similarly legendary Fanfare Ciocarlia. And there’s also a 2010 greatest-hits compilation titled Golden Horns (also at Spotify).

Of the three, Balkan Brass Battle (Spotify link) is probably the least reflective of Boban i Marko’s live show, due to the sheer number of players on any one track. Golden Horns, because it encompasses much of the band’s career, offers a better idea of what to expect in concert: keening clarinet and alto sax solos, clip-clop percusion, shivery massed trumpets, pulsing trubas and tubas, bracing minor keys, ominous chromatics and otherworldly microtones. The band also has a sense of humor: they’ll toss in a droll quote from Mozart, or mash up Ethiopiques and the Doors just to keep the crowd on their toes. There are drinking songs and several tracks with guest vocalists. Golden Horns also includes a boisterous take of a famous Jewish melody and a tongue-in-cheek Neil Young cover

What might be most interesting to see is how the songs on Gipsy Manifesto translate to the stage. Since the production is a lot more techy – a New Yorker would call this “Mehanata music” – is the band going to bring along a synthesizer? Probably not. Which means that what’s a much more, um, tightly wound production will loosen up and swing like the band typically does live. The songs here are more stripped-down, often with accordion, electric guitar or piano over the shuffling drum machine beat. But there’s plenty of eclectic stuff as well: a moodily orchestrated, Middle Eastern jazz-inflected trip-hop theme; a lively EDM parody that morphs into salsa; a woozy departure into reggae; and a track with fractured English lyrics that sounds like Gogol Bordello in the days when they relied as much on horns as guitars. And all of it has those delicious minor keys and chromatics that make music from the Balkans on east so irresistible.

Orient Noir: Klezmer Sounds from the Edges of the Diaspora

On the Orient Noir compilation, billed as a “WestEastern Divan,” the folks over at Piranha Records in Germany raid their own archives for an instant album…and a pretty killer playlist that goes on for well over an hour. It’s quite an inspiration for adventurous downloaders (most of this stuff is on youtube – follow the links below). It’s noir to the extent that the sexy and mysterious microtones of Middle Eastern and Jewish music are noir. This is first and foremost a klezmer playlist, one that ranges across more of the Jewish diaspora than most, with a handful of tasty levantine numbers thrown in for good measure.

The weakest tracks are from French band Watcha Clan: a brief klezmer intro and a woozy reggae cover of an Ofra Haza hit. The track most instantly identifiable as klezmer is from Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, Susan Sandler out in front of the band, giving the song a barely restrained longing. London also appears in a low-key, moody collaboration with Serbian brass virtuoso Boban Markovic, while another project he’s been involved with for decades, the Klezmatics, are represented by the understatedly ferocious, gospel-fueled I’m Not Afraid.

A couple of instrumentals are stripped down to the basics of slinky percussion and a single melody line: a flute-and-accordion jam from Nubian artist Mahmoud Fadl, and Ali’s Nay, credited to veteran Lebanese composer Ihsan Al-Mounzer. The most eye-opening stuff here is the Jewish music that pushes the boundaries of klezmer with influences from Africa – Moroccan cantor Emil Zrihan’s amusingly titled, flamenco-flavored Maka Shelishit, and Moroccan Sephardic crooner Maurice El Medioni ‘s long diptych Ya Maalem/Kelbi Razahi, a noir cabaret tango with Balkan horns!

Ruth Yaakov’s Las Esuergas de Angora – from her album Sephardic Songs of the Balkans – offers a tricky blend of flamenco and gypsy music with what sounds like creepy, swirly West African riti fiddle. And a track by popular Zanzibar taraab chanteuse Bi Kikude blends Bollywood-flavored, surfy rock with lushly suspenseful levantine orchestration.

Interestingly, on this klezmer-oriented playlist, the most outright haunting tracks are by the Arabs. Salwa Abou Greisha sings a sweeping, haunting multi-part Egyptian bellydance epic, and iconic Egyptian trumpeter Samy El Bably¬†provides his hit¬†Ana Bamasi El Haba Doll, an elegant vamp with richly nuanced solos from trumpet and accordion. The playlist ends the way you might end your own playlist, with something completely random and weird: in this case, The Garden, a cantorially-tinged 1979 song by short-lived German hippie-rock band Efendi’s Garden. If Hotel California-style twin guitars playing vaguely Middle Eastern riffs are your thing, you’ll love this one. Happy hunting, wink wink!