Roma Road Shows and Royalty

Gypsy Caravan – When the Road Bends…
Gypsy Caravan – When the Road Bends… Music in and Inspired by the Film (World Village 468070, 2007)

Fanfare Ciocarlia Queens and Kings (Asphalt Tango Records CD-ATR-1207, 2007)

I haven’t seen the documentary film (which is only in a smattering of theatres), but the soundtrack to Gypsy Caravan is a splendidly wide-reaching selection of Roma (Gypsy) music that stands solidly on its own.

Chronicling the World Music Institute-sponsored Gypsy Caravan tour that played various venues across the U.S. a few years back, the movie and disc feature some of the top artists from a genre that’s harder to pigeonhole than pervasive stereotyping might lead one to believe.

Two of Romania’s top Gypsy bands are included: the brass-heavy Fanfare Ciocarlia and Taraf de Haidouks, who’ve won over such fans as Johnny Depp with their combination of violins, accordion, flute, cymbalom, bass, clarinet and spirited vocals.

Also on hand are Macedonian diva/humanitarian& Esma Redzepova, Spain’s Antonio "El Pipa" Flamenco Company and Maharaja, whose soaring Rajasthan-based sound serves as a reminder of the Roma peoples’ origins in northern India.

The CD liner notes recount some of the blurring of musical and cultural lines between the artists themselves even as they navigated the larger cultural complexities of touring America and the music, which ranges from traditional to modern, from deeply heartfelt to swingingly joyful, is great.

Fanfare Ciocarlia Queens and Kings
Fanfare Ciocarlia‘s own current release, Queens and Kings, is also a star-studded affair featuring guest appearances by such veterans as the aforementioned Esma Redzepova and Yugoslav legend Saban Bajramovic in addition to younger performers like Bulgaria’s Jony Iliev and members of Belgrade-based Kal, who know how to make authentic Gypsy music rock.

A tribute to Fanfare Ciocarlia‘s late clarinetist and bandleader Ioan Ivancea, the disc channels the group’s intricately driving horns-and-percussion attack through pieces laced not only with deep Romany roots but also shades of klezmer, jazz, Ottoman music, flamenco and stuff straight out of some crazy funk heaven mid-way between the Balkans and New Orleans.

It’s as amazing a selection of Gypsy artists and styles as you’re ever likely to find on a single CD. Highly Recommended.

Buy Gypsy Caravan and Queens and Kings.

Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.