various artists,
The Rough Guide to the Music of the Balkans
(World Music Network, 2004)

The Balkans is a huge and diverse area of Europe where the music is very influnced by Rom (Gypsy), Turkish and Greek styles, but has a viewpoint of its own. Such countries as Bulgaria, Serbia-Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are represented on this lively and energetic CD.

Collected by Toronto journalist Dan Rosenberg, these songs and artists are part of the venerable traditions of this region, but they reach into modernity as well. The connecting points with jazz, as well as Western pop-folk, are evident here.

This is an excellent, energetic CD with good production values that attempts to survey the musics of a diverse array of cultures. Much of the music is from the Gypsy or Rom people of the area. Such musicians as Esma Redzepova, Saban Bajramovi and Fanfare Ciocrlia bring different elements from the Gypsy musical heritage, voices and sounds rooted in an ancient tradition of music-makers.

There is great variety of sound: brass bands, polyphonic choirs such as Ensemble Tirana, which closes out the CD with a lovely "Do Mare Ciften," and even a cimbalom virtuoso, Toni Iordache.

The group Cinkusi has been called the Croatian Pogues, and their song "Pet Je Kumi" has a modern, almost Western sound, adding strength without straying into pop. Another piece with some modern elements is Kristi Stassinopoulou's "Trigona," which has some trance elements.

Rosenberg and the Rough Guide have succeeded in creating an enjoyable blend, an entertaining introduction to the music of a wide region, and one that entices the listener to find out more about these and other artists. Interesting notes on each artist are provided. For such a diverse region, one with such a reputation for strife, this is a remarkably coherent, consistent record.

by David Cox
Rambles.NET
11 February 2006



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