Gypsy Revival

In 2006, Bosnian-Herzegovinian group, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, devoted an entire album to the late Serbian genius of song, Saban Bajramovic. Playing their own style of Ottoman influenced Balkan blues, ‘Shtar Luludja’ documents the wild and heartbreaking story of a man’s life. Besh o Drom (The Ride Road) formed in Budapest in 1999, fusing their Gypsy-influenced music with a jazz orchestra’s technique and musicianship. ‘Csujogato’ (‘Yell’) benefits from some rocking breakbeats, scratching and the chugging heavy metal trio of guitar, cimbolom and saxes.

What connects young European Gypsies and the hip-hop generation? Historically speaking, both Gypsies and American Black folk had to deal with enslavement, poverty and discrimination, but turned their experiences into positives through the art and expression of music. Gipsy.cz burst onto the Czech music scene in 2003. The song ‘Benga Beating’ is influenced by American Hip Hop, and while banging along at 200bpm is not exactly Wu Tang speed, it is well worth exploring.  Balkan Beat Box was put together by ex-Gol Bordello member Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat of Firewater. Kaplan and Muskat draw on their own Israeli roots, mixing Klezmer and punk, with dancehall, hip hop and Balkan. While not gypsy in fact, is nonetheless Roma in spirit. On the track ‘Red Bula’ they collaborate with Mahala Rai Banda a Romany group from the Gypsy zones around Bucharest. The song has a very funky sound, inciting you to dance your way to freedom. 

Shantel is a German-born producer/musician who has gone from being an electronic music club DJ and producer in the 1990s to a global Balkan/Gypsy-influenced dance phenomenon. From his brilliant album Disko Partizani comes ‘Fige Ki Ase Me’, a seductively trance-inducing cover of a Greek rebetika tune. Romanian ensemble Fanfare Ciocarlia’s punchy brass is propels Viennese producer, Dunkelbunt’s dubbed-out version of the well-known ‘Asphalt Tango’.

Innovative Barcelonan, Ojos De Brujo (Eyes Of  The Wizard) gets the dance floor treatment with the DJ Floro Remix. ‘Runali’ is rooted in nuevo flamenco but includes vocal and percussive elements reflective their recent trip to Cuba. Like Ojos De Brujo, French guitarist Thierry ‘Titi’ Robin has immersed himself in Mediterranean, Indian, African and Caribbean sounds. The track ‘Neem’ originally comes from the 1993 recording Rakhi and features bluesy guitar licks with bouncy reggae, Balkan sax riffs and pleasing Rajasthani melodies. 

The older generation may say it is just their own music wrapped in silly clothes. Rather, it might be looked upon in a more positive light as a way to keep traditions healthy and still relevant.  Now is the time of the Roma and the following tracks will prove that, taking you on a thrilling ride into electric Gypsyland.