42. Gipsy Dance

Posted on 28/03/2017

42. Gipsy Dance

The image created by the phrase above is of manic whirling dancers, accompanied by manic whirling musicians. Plenty of that exists, but gipsy music (or in the evocative French phrase ‘Music tsigane’) contains a wide range of styles.

The music here is not necessarily of gipsy origin, but it is generally Balkan in instrumentation and style. To get an idea of what this means, look at the splendid collection of instruments used by Taraf de Haidouks in the video below. The band were recorded in their native village as far back as the 1930’s and draw on a long tradition of folk music.

The first track here is a lovely lilting song by Ternipe, a group from Hungary which began collectiing songs of the Roma (as gipsies are know in Eastern Europe) in 1989. The song is translated as : My daughter Sabi.

The second song is a thoroughgoing whirl with mad fiddle playing. Its a wedding song by Slobodan Salijevic.

The video below is a bit arch, based on a girl typing a story and lovers meeting etc. But the reason for putting it here is that it is relatively short: most of their songs go on for quite a bit. To get a quick idea of what they are like, the music here will do the trick. Notice the amazing instruments including some form of hammered dulcimer and three accordions. These bands are like a museum of antiquities.

In keeping with this theme the singer is a lady of a certain age who has been heard on many of their songs and is quite wonderful: the minor key and the yearning. Also the uninhibited cigarette smoking in a video only made recently (2014). The BBC would faint at such stuff!

The following song (Dumbala Dumba) also features the singing of the splendid lady from the video above.

The next song is by Titi Robin, a French composer whose work in infused by the same musical tradition s as the genuinely ethnic performers whose work is shown above. This song is ‘L’amour s’envole’ (love flies). The overall effect is just as Balkan as the others! Its a tribute to the power of its style that musicians from quite different cultures are impelled to use it.

Culture may not be the obviouis label for the next song. It is ‘Kalashnikov’ by Goran Bregovich and Slobodan Salijevic. Bregovic is the most famous of the musicians listed here, having written for such musicians as Iggy Pop and Cesaria Evora of the Buena Vista Social Club. Kalashnikov as a word and a gun goes very well with the wild nature of this music.

As an antidote, remember that Kalashnikov himself was broken hearted that his contribution to the world’s vocabulary was a shooting machine. The song, once the soulful intro is over bangs along in suitable cacophony.

This is another Bregovic song ‘Cajesukarije Cocek. A lilting song, but one could wish for a snappier title, not to mention one which is easier to spell. The Slavs speak a demanding language!

To end on a calmer, but still ethnic note, the following song features the duduk. It is a double reeded instrument related to the oboe. The oboe is fiendishly difficult to play and so it is awe inspiring to think how the Armenian Djivan Gasparyan manages it. As you will hear, the dudukis a sonorous charming instrument.

He is playing with Michael Brook who is a noted ambient music guitarist and producer who has put the musical context around Gasparyan’s atmospheric playing.

The majority of the musicians heard hear were brought up under various communist regimes in Eastern Europe. It is fortunate that part of the communist mythology involved the admiration of folk culture. So the older of these musicians were often drafted into national folk orchestras, designed to give the regime a smiling face. Luckily they can now be more natural and play as themselves!






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