Cigarros Explosivos! (Asphalt Tango, 2014)
Swiss band Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics are passionate about 1960s musical styles like chicha (a mix of cumbia, surf guitars and early psychedelia), surf guitar and ska. They take this retro mix and combine it with Cuban son and Balkan music on their album Cigarros Explosivos! (Explosive Cigars), creating a vibrant new mix.
“I was thinking of the people more than the instruments when I set the lineup,” Milko explains. “I knew I wanted a band with a different sound, and we don’t have a bass player.” Trombonist Luke Briggen became his bass asset. “He actually plays some of the basslines. He has a pedal that lowers the notes by an octave. To me it sounds just like Balkan brass and that’s what I want.”
Milko was born in Switzerland after his parents moved from Czechoslovakia. He played Balkan music for many years and later the Gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt as a member of Prekmurski Kavbojci. The Cuban influence arrived after Milko visited the country with his girlfriend. “There was so much familiar stuff. Furniture and glasses that were the same as my parents had in the 1970s. It was familiar and weird at the same time.” He later discovered cumbia. “We were touring in the US and someone gave us a cumbia compilation. We all feel in love with it and played it all the time on the road.”
Milko formed Cubalkanics in 2010.
Cigarros Explosivos! is exactly what Jaro Milko was looking for. “It’s very close to me,” Milko says. “It’s very personal. The songs are mine, the lyrics are mine. It’s certainly the most emotional music I’ve made; the other things are more intellectual.”
Ines Brodbeck and Eric Gut form the rhythm section. “This is a well-established duo transforming straight tumbaos into Balkan odd meters. Making you want to dance immediately, these Caribbean-Rhythm experts are willing to hit hard enough to compete with distorted surf guitars and a mad-gone organ,” says Milko.
The lineup on the album includes Jaro Milko on guitars, vocals, keyboards and percussion; Eric Gut on drums, percussion, balafon, backing vocals; Ines Brodbeck (percussion, backing vocals; Lukas Briggen on trombone, trumpet; and Eric Gilson on organ. Guests include Jana Kouril on vocals; Andreas Tschopp on trombone; Thomas Baumgartner on melodica and backing vocals; Srdjan Vukasinovic on accordion; and Ani Cordero on intro spoken word.
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