Freegan Kolktiva, Album Review >>
Boban Markovic is maybe the most praised Romani trumpeter in the world and one of the prime exponents of Balkan brass music. He has also been synonymous with the genre’s explosion in popularity since the 2000s which still holds up to this date. Today, many Romani musicians enjoy wide recognition and Boban Markovic with the most prestigious “First Trumpet” prize (2001) among various others (e.g. “Best Concert”) in the renowned Guca festival under his belt as well as extensive touring and recording is certainly one of them. His son, Marko, has been by his side since 2002 and already at the age of 17 he became the orkestars’ main soloist and arranger.
Balkan brass music is another term for bucolic festivities, for wild dancing, for unleashing one’s primal lifeforce and that is once again captured in the latest studio offering of Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra aptly titled Gipsy Manifesto. At the same time, the album has marked the evolution of the band in various aspects. Firstly, the orkestar is now truly global with musical references that span New Orleans brass, Latin and Jamaican ska among others. This is a step further in establishing their identity not only as a brass band but also as a premier world music act. These influences also widen their palette of sounds, making their frenetic Balkan horns more digestible for international audiences – these extra spices help to entertain crowds during live shows.
Secondly, the instrumentation has been “modernized” including guitar, drums, piano and accordion (a welcome addition) while most of their tracks now feature digital beats and other electronic elements. For instance, “Slijivovica” and “Cokolada” are some of the band’s most electronic outputs to date with an arrangement that tailored their sound to fit the genre’s up-to-date format (utilizing even dubstep riffing).
Finally, it is their most accessible, commercially-oriented album, a fact partly associated with the electronic/world music leanings mentioned above. Not to forget that last year they hit the charts in the U.S. for the first time with their best of compilation Golden Horns. As a result, the new songs have been crafted to fit their Balkan madness into the radio format. This is coupled with a neat and clear yet powerful production.
Does this all work? Undoubtedly, the set includes some heavy stompers like “Caje Sukarije”, which only Boban & Marko are able to deliver. The number guarantees sheer fun with the memorable horn melodies matching nicely the electronic beat and the arena vocals. “Turbo Dizel” builds on the success of the smash hit “Gas Gas” by Goran Bregovic. At a slower pace, “BumTras” successfully incorporates accordion to support the eternal Balkan melodies spelled out by the band. “Divlji Konj” is a maelstorm of frantic horns and ska beats while “Slijivovica” throws swing modes, dubstep wobbles and breaks in the mix approximating acts like Beats Antique or Caravan Palace. These innovations are accompanied by stunning gipsy songs like “Zivot Cigana” and “Od Hana Do Kana”.
On the other hand, it is understandable that some long-time Balkan music lovers (like me) might be turned off by the populist approach and gaudy commercialization of the gypsy aesthetics which are evident in the music and lyrics of tracks like “Cokolada” and “Balkan Karavan” (which embodies Gogol Bordelo’s attitude).
With the creative controls largely handed over to Marko, Gipsy Manifesto has managed to collect elements from other genres as well as from other popular gypsy-oriented artists. By compiling all these sounds the orchestra strives to establish itself as a pan-Balkan and world music band at once. Therefore, the album is both more diverse and more palatable with more dynamics and tempo shifts, designed to appeal to festival-size crowds. The stellar musicianship, especially the storming horn section, the still authentic Balkan roots and the felicitous integration of some new sounds have resulted in a solid album, qualified to make Boban & Marko household names. With that, the development of Balkan brass music into international music formats has already been achieved.
10/13/13 >> go there