The Relentless Energy of Brass Band Music

Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra - Gipsy Manifesto
Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra – Gipsy Manifesto
Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra – Gipsy Manifesto (Piranha Musik, 2013)

Raya Brass Band – This Train is Now (2013)

Brasslands (Evergreene Music, 2013)

The passionate and vibrant sounds of Balkan brass music continue to fascinate worldwide audiences. The Eastern European brass bands have their origin in 19th-century Ottoman military bands. The Roma (Gypsy) musicians adopted these loud musical instruments to perform during dances and celebrations. Several new releases highlight this celebratory music genre.

The most spectacular and captivating of all the recent brass band recordings is Boban and Marko’s Gipsy Manifesto. The energetic father and son Serbian trumpet duo and their ensemble are some of the best brass band performers in Europe. They’ve had competitions and collaborations with their Romanian counterparts Fanfare Ciocarlia to see who’s best. Gipsy Manifesto takes the Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra’s style to a new level. The album features the dazzling fast brass band sound and good humor fans are accustomed to. One of such songs, titled ‘Turbo Dizel (Turbo Diesel) clearly describes the breakneck speed feel.

But there is much more in Gipsy Manifesto: ear catching Gypsy pop seeking radio and club popularity as well as unexpected innovative pieces where the flying brass ventures into elegant jazz, Gypsy funk, blues, Afro-jazz, and a delightful slow tempo piece. The album also contains a remix by one of the leading Central European DJs, Dunkelbunt.

The new influences come from Marko Markovic, Boban’s son. He’s 25 now. Marko was a child prodigy who started performing with his father’s orchestra when he was 13. He’s developed into a trumpet virtuoso who truly loves his musical instrument. Boban passed the orchestra’s baton to Marko a few years ago. Marko set a new path for the orchestra, respecting tradition while adding new musical influences.

Raya Brass Band - This Train is Now
Raya Brass Band – This Train is Now
The Balkan Brass music scene is also alive in the United States, primarily in the New York City area. Raya Brass Band is a smaller brass group from Brooklyn where Greg Squared’s saxophone instead of trumpets plays a leading role. Their third album This Train is Now is out this month. Tuba player Don Godwin describes the band’s composition process. “We’ll have a gig in the street, say, and be waiting around for the organizers. So we’ll start messing around. Someone will have a phone and we’ll record it. We’ll be under a bridge or on the corner, some arbitrary spot, and an off-the-cuff idea will become the jumping off point for a whole track.”

Raya Brass Band is deeply inspired by the brass bands of Serbia and Macedonia. Their repertory includeslively recreations of traditional tunes and improvisatory pieces.

The new film Brasslands (Evergreene Music) focuses on the Balkan brass phenomenon. The movie won “Best of Fest” winner at Minneapolis Film Festival and premiered in the United States in July. The soundtrack is available on CD.

Every year a small Serbian village called Guca host the world’s largest brass competition. Brasslands documents Guca’s 50th anniversary festival. Although the majority of the participating artists where Gypsy musicians from Serbia and the Balkan region, American band Zlatne Uste also traveled to Guca and was the first American act ever to compete at Guca.

The Brasslands soundtrack includes some of Serbia’s best known trumpet maestros: famed Roma musician Dejan Avdic, 3-time Guca champion Demiran Cerimovic, and 2010 champion and trumpet virtuoso Dejan Petrovic. The album also features several New York city acts Zlatne Uste, Veveritse, Raya Brass Band, and Slavic Soul Party!

It might be counter-intuitive,” says Evergreene Manager, Mark Roberts, “but the relentless energy and assertive spirit of this music is the perfect soundtrack to modern life in the city. It’s fast, it’s empowering, and it matches New York’s energy every step of the way.”

Buy the albums: Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra – Gipsy Manifesto; Raya Brass Band – This Train is Now; and Brasslands

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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