She’Koyokh: First Dance On Second Avenue
Klezmer and Balkan music's finest She'Koyokh take you on a journey of delight from polyphonic Bulgarian singing to a Serbian song about pigeons and raspberries, and from a tale told in a Turkish sauna to a love song for a Gypsy girl with penetrating green eyes.
‘First Dance On Second Avenue is cosmopolitan but rooted’ Financial Times, UK
'engaging, accomplished klezmer and Balkan songs' The Guardian, UK
The UK’s finest klezmer and Balkan band, She’Koyokh, return to World Music Network for the release of their fourth album, First Dance On Second Avenue. Seatbelts are advised on this formidably gymnastic and break-neck speed sonic stride through the traditional music of Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey. The name She'Koyokh is a playful Yiddish term that roughly translates as ‘nice one!’ This album illuminates not only the band’s best toe-tapping party vibes but also their skill at carving sensitive tones and gentle textures.
She’Koyokh’s members are cosmopolitan to the core from Serbia, Sweden, Turkey and the UK. They bring their individual knowledge and experiences to the music as well as an enthusiasm for discovering new music and adopting it as their own. Accordionist Živorad hails from Serbia and lead singer Çiğdem is Kurdish, from Turkey. Violinist Meg studied with Gypsy musicians in Romania, bassist Paul has been performing with the UK’s best klezmer and Balkan musicians since the 2000s whilst guitarist Matt and percussionist Christina both studied at the Plovdiv Music Academy in Bulgaria. Clarinettist Susi’s athletic dexterity was honed studying with the world’s finest klezmer revivalists as well as Selim Sesler in Turkey and Nikola Iliev in Bulgaria.
Title track ‘Second Avenue Square Dance’ opens the album with a brooding clarinet solo. This tune, by Jewish Ukrainian klezmer émigré Dave Tarras (1895 – 1989), harks back to the ritz and glitz of the 1950s American music scene and features electric jazz guitar. She'Koyokh’s arrangement of ‘Bağa Girdim’ is based upon a Thracian folk song combined with two verses from well-loved Turkish comedy blockbuster, ‘Tosun Paşa’. In the film the scene takes place in a hammam (bath) as two women bicker over the future of a particularly eligible (aka rich) bride-to-be. Next up is a duet in Serbian and Turkish between a father and daughter about who she is going to marry – in the end she chooses the drunken one! - with accordionist Živorad acting the role of the father and Çiğdem the part of the daughter.
The track ‘Yovino Oro/Jove Malai Mome’ truly displays the incredible musicianship at play within She'Koyokh: Christina's expert tupan beats weave a tight groove. The tune opens with a bone-shakingly fast retelling of a traditional Bulgarian dance tune in a mathematically marvellous time signature. Shortly the arrangement plunges headfirst into a love song, whereupon we are treated to She'Koyokh singing in perfect polyphony. Twisting track ‘Ghili Bengaili’ pays homage to the incredible sound of the Tárogató, a traditional Hungarian woodwind instrument. Listen out for Susi’s infinite circular breathing skills at play here.
‘Moj Golube’ leans into She'Koyokh’s sensitive side with an evocative performance of the South Serbian song sung by Živorad. The lyrics are a metaphor for young love: ‘My pigeon, please don’t fall on my raspberries whilst they are still green. When they are ripe they will fall by themselves’. Show piece ‘Romska Igra’ is a kolo (circle dance) and was composed by Serbian virtuoso violinist Aleksandar Šišić (1937-2007).
‘Voliner Bulgar’ is a Jewish dance from Volyn, Ukraine. It is played here at a brisk tempo with some Balkan influences intertwined. Next, ‘Erzurumi Shoror’ begins with a traditional Armenian melody matched with heartfelt lyrics about forced Turkish migration penned by singer Gülay: ‘An autumn in the shadow of black, a solemn song in its hands’. ‘Sila Kale Bal’ is a love song by the late, great, King of the Gypsies, Šaban Bajramović.
‘Kurdzhaliysko Horo’ is a Pravo horo (straight dance) written by perhaps the most famous Bulgarian musician, clarinettist Ivo Papasov. She'Koyokh’s version features Matt Bacon on kaval – a Bulgarian end-blown flute. ‘Për Ty Vuaj Për Ty Këndoj’ is an upbeat Albanian folk song popularised by singer Shpresa Berisha. The violin solo in the middle of this track was inspired by a legendary Albanian violinist, Ethem Qerimaj. ‘Estradno Oro’, taken from the repertoire of Macedonian master accordion player Kočo Petrovski, closes out the album.
New City Music, Chicago: 'a great showcase of the funky sounds currently made in Crescent City'.
The Guardian, UK, 3*** stars: 'A classy compilation'.
Guardian, UK 4****stars: 'A highly original, compelling set'.
Froots, UK: '... a superb album of an under-represented music ... and comes highly recommended'.