Saturday, June 02, 2007

Barbican burns down

Metaphorically, that is. Went to the latest concert in the Gypsy Music festival last night and heard these guys. Ever seen the Barbican bopping like mad to Bartok? I have now. Please welcome, from Romania, TARAF DE HAIDOUKS:

Now add a packed hall, yelling, whistling and dancing in the aisles, and a smattering of classical musos looking on with dropped jaws (that'll be me & pals) and you get the idea. It was fast, it was loud and they took no prisoners. The place went bananas.

The cimbalom player boggles eyes and ears alike. Last time I saw one close to, in a restaurant in Budapest, I thought the instrument was simply a poor substitute for a pub piano. Wrong! This was wall-to-wall fireworks and white-hot energy - harpsichord and rock drummer rolled into one. The fiddles were fevered and furious, the accordion sounded like a clarinet, and the singing - Romany? Romanian? I'm not sure - the men's voices are direct, natural, communicative, conversational, and even if you don't understand a word it doesn't matter, you still get the general idea and that's fine.

Amira, the Bosnian sevdah singer, was the curtain-raiser to all this. She has a beautiful, sweet, soulful voice; the music is haunting, deeply sad, distinctly Mediterranean in sound (lots of Turkish influence, if I'm right) and her band was super, especially the pianist Kim Burton who isn't Bosnian but British. Fabulous rapport between them.

I have certain issues with overamplified music - not least that it makes my ears hurt for hours afterwards - which is why I don't go more often. And it would perhaps have been nicer, at least more 'authentic', to hear them unamplified (preferably somewhere in the wilds of Romania). All the same, this morning my head is reeling with wild Gypsy sounds and a smattering of Bartok, Kodaly and Khatchaturian that they 'regypsified' (including the Romanian Dances) and that will never sound the same again.