Tag Archives: Gogol Bordello

Just got another Balkan music fix. I’ll be jonesing again soon, but it feels nice at the moment.

Gotta wrap up the reviews of my last batch of CDs before I pick up new ones, which could happen any time. I got these two off CDBaby, which is a great place to order all sorts of independent music.

Figli di Madre Ignota

One of my favorite new discoveries is Figli di Madre Ignota, a band from Tuscany, Italy (The name means “children of unknown mother”). I found them thanks to Jango Internet radio. I made a “Gypsy” themed station and tried to get as many Eastern European-sounding bands to pop up as possible. The first thing I thought of was Gypsy Punk band Gogol Bordello, but Figli is different. Not much of a punk flavor. More of a big band sound, with the nice horn section and a bit of swing. They refer to their music as Spaghetti Balkan. It does have an Italian sort of flair about it. I also hear influences like dancehall reggae and ska, klezmer, and surf. I bet they would be nearly as fun to see live as Gogol Bordello.

Very enjoyable album all the way through. Lyrics are Italian, except for the excellent “Theme from Paradise,” which is in English and “Dago Shoes” (mostly English). The booklet has translations for “Falafel Express” and “Nema Problema Tourist.” And by the way, the CD came with two free videos, one for “Theme from Paradise,” the other from “Ole Ole.”

BalkanBeats Vol. 2


Since I was already on CDBaby about to order something with a Balkan feel, I decided to get some straight-up Balkan music. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff like that, so I went with a mix so I could find some new favorites. And I certainly did. Also found some great new tunes by bands I already knew and loved.

New ones that jumped out at me include: “Anti Geroj” by Azis (very Indian-sounding), “Mozarrella” by Kal (reminds me a bit of Taraf de Haidouks), “Gypsy Part 1” by Biber, “Ha megfogom az ördögöt” by Besh O Drom (killer song, love the flute), “Hora Evreiasca” by Fanfare Ciocarlia (already one of my favorite bands – awesome Gypsy brass, really fiery number), “Otpisani” by Boban Markovic Orkestar (more great Gypsy brass by another current favorite), “31” by Va Fan Fahre (this is a new favorite, a Balkan brass band from Belgium with a klezmer influence, absolutely explosive – a “magic organ” version of this song turns up later as a hidden track), “Moldavian Song” by Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra (I’ve loved Kusturica and his band for years and this does not disappoint – incidentally, Kusturica is also a hell of a movie director. Time of the Gypsies and Underground are some of my favorites and also feature great soundtracks by Goran Bregovic).

See if this doesn’t get your blood pumping:

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Requiem for my ability to go to SXSW

When people find out I live in Austin (or close to it), they almost always ask if I’m going to South By Southwest (March 17-21 for the music festival, March 12-21 for the whole thing). Answer: I wish. I have been several times and mostly had a blast. Definitely discovered a lot of great music. However, I don’t know if or when I’m going back. I probably won’t unless I can get in with a press pass, which isn’t likely since my newspaper (The Hill Country News) is very local and we’re also working on a special section right around that time.

First time I went to SXSW, I got in with a wrist band, which is affordable, but now the demand is so high it’s almost impossible to get one. When they announce that wristbands are on sale, you have only a few hours to get to the location. Since I work in the burbs, that means it’s never gonna happen. I can remember when you had at least a week to mosey on down and pick up a wristband before they sold out.

Then assuming you did get one, everyone with a badge gets in ahead of you. So most venues and most shows will fill up before you ever get in. The Fire Marshal’s office is very strict on the issue of overcrowding. When a venue is full, that’s it. No one else gets in. I still got plenty of enjoyment out of SXSW as a wristband attendee, but now it’s so crowded that even badge-holders often wait in line for hours and don’t get into shows they want to see. And the badges are EXPENSIVE. To register now for the Music festival alone would cost $750. If you registered before Sept. 15 it was “only” $595. I like movies too, but I only ever attended the music festival because music comes first for me. A Platinum badge, which gets you into Music, Film and Interactive festivals, started at $920 and is now up to $1,225. Way, way out of my reach.

Two years in a row when I worked at another publication, I applied for and got press badges, which didn’t cost me, but I was expected to cover the festival and report on it. I would do feature stories on any local (Dripping Springs) musicians in the festival and would review the bands I saw each night. The newspaper I work for now can’t really use reports on SXSW so it’s not an option.

A couple of years ago I got the bright idea of taking my vacation during SXSW and buying my own badge, $500 on my credit card. Then my friend who was going to go with me got called away on business unexpectedly. He was supposed to come back and catch a few days of the festival with me but during his trip back he got a horrible case of the flu. So I was left to wander around the festival alone with no one to talk to. Then my radiator on my pickup truck blew up and I had to get it towed, and it cost me $300 to fix the thing. I still had a good time overall, found some great bands, but it made me pretty shy about plunking down that kind of money. It was scary enough planning a vacation to San Francisco last fall knowing the possibly deadly swine flu was going around. Lucked out on that one.

You might expect me to have sour grapes and say SXSW sucks and is too corporate, but the fact is I got a great deal out of it and would love to go back some year. I discovered a lot of great music there – Gogol Bordello, Antibalas, Kinky and Melissa McClelland to name a few. Also got to see one of my musical heroes, Robyn Hitchcock, three different times. Maybe one day…

If you happen to have a few thousand bucks lying around or work for a company that would pay your way and want to sign up, you can do it at http://www.sxsw.com/. And if you get to go, lucky SOB, tell me who you saw so I can live vicariously and discover some bands secondhand.

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Music recommendation by Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz

At some point I’m going to do a proper post about the Gypsy Punk band Gogol Bordello, which is way up on my list of all time favorite bands. But right now I want to link to a great list of recommendations by lead singer Eugene Hütz: Recommended Music.

I don’t have everything on it, but I have some, and will eventually get more. Trust me on this one, Hütz knows music and if he says it’s good, it’s good. Some of it might be too much for you, but that’s not the music’s fault. You just need to learn how to handle more awesomeness.

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Latest CDs – Phoenix and Mahala Rai Banda

I mentioned going on a CD run and never got around to saying what I got. I picked up two CDs, one by the French indie rock band Phoenix, the other by Balkan Gypsy brass band Mahala Rai Banda. I am more than happy with both.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I pride myself on being able to spot talent early. I knew the Decemberists were gonna be a big deal before you did 😉 But sometimes I can still be late to the party. I finally got around to buying Amadeus Mozart Phoenix, something I’ve been intending to do for months, since I first heard “Lisztomania” and “1901.” They already gave it a Grammy for Christ’s sake. I’m definitely slipping. Played through it in the record store this afternoon and found it irresistible. Played it again after I got home and ripped it to the laptop and my opinion hasn’t changed. Hell of an album.

Ghetto Blasters


I was excited to see Mahala Rai Banda had another album out. I’ve been crazy about their self-titled debut for a couple of years. I got into Balkan Gypsy music thanks to a list of recommendations by Eugene Hütz of the amazing Gypsy Punk band Gogol Bordelllo, and I can’t seem to get enough. The Romanian band Mahala Rai Banda has it all – horns, cymbalom, accordion, singers. They play with such passion and virtuosity, it rocks harder than any actual rock ‘n’ roll I’ve heard.

This is from the first album, but it’ll give you an idea what they’re like:

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