Lucid Culture


CD Review: The Rough Guide to Gypsy Music

Like the books, the Rough Guide albums can send the unsuspecting adventurer careening down the wrong path, but this one’s a keeper. As an introduction, it’s smashingly addictive, a pathway drug leading ultimately to the delirium and ecstasy that comes with discovering the entirety of the gypsy music spectrum. It must have been a blast to put together. For the more experienced fan, it still makes a great anthology. With the music business in disarray, the smarter labels are doing all they can to make their products attractive and World Music Network, no dummies, have included with this a free, first-rate bonus cd by Bela Lakatos & the Gypsy Youth Project.


What’s most impressive is how broad a net the compilers have cast. Gypsy music has become a truly global phenomenon, and this does as well as anything else as a snapshot of some of the best acts out there at the moment. For purists, there’s Taraf de Haidouks’ Waltz from Masquerade, a swaying, orchestrated string-driven theme and variations, winding up with whispery violins boiling over into a big crescendo. For fans of Balkan brass, there’s the intricately arranged Voz by Boban I Markovic Orkestar, and representing the new generation, Ya-Ya by Slavic Soul Party, kicking off with an amusing old doo-wop melody before going all dark and haunting. The Bosnian Mostar Sevah Reunion are represented by the hypnotic, horn-driven Guglo Kafava. Biav by Austrian “urban gypsies” Dela Dap reminds of Manu Chao with its bouncy, catchy minimalism (speaking of which, where’s Manu Chao? Nowhere to be found).


There’s also a roughhewn track by Acquaragia Drom that reminds of acoustic Gogol Bordello (no Gogol Bordello either), the stomping, latin-flavored More Love! Money Mate! by Czechs Terne Chave, a big bright Romanian dance vamp by Fanfare Ciocarlia feat. Kaloome and a haunting, cimbalom-and-vocalese-driven number credited to gypsy film director Toni Gatliff along with genre-bending cuts by Son de la Frontera, Musafir, Bela Lakatos and Stochelo Rosemberg. Gypsy music fans being what we are, there’s bound to be plenty of debate about what’s missing here, but taken for what it is, it’s as good a place to start as any.


The Lakatos/Gypsy Youth Project would be worth owning as a stand-alone album. Their expertise is the rustic, guitar-based acoustic style found in rural Hungary, rich with vocal harmonies, stomping along on a dance beat. Lakatos, founder of the popular Kalyi Jag, started this band both to preserve the traditional repertoire as well as to find a younger generation of musicians to play it and the results are predictably bracing and fun. It’s amazing how far and wide these sounds have spread. The bouncy, catchy Del O Brishind reminds of Brooklyn Peruvian plunderers Chicha Libre; Bilako Na Zhuvau and Muro Shavo have the kind of snarky melody you’d find in an American ragtime hit around 1900; Autar Manca plinks along like a Mexican border ballad. This is the raw material that the other bands here have taken and run with and it’s absolutely essential to get to know if this is your music. 

April 21, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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