Gypsy/Ciganski/Roma Folkminded Masters

parno graszt group photo

Gogol Bordello’s mix of gypsy folk and punk rock music facilitates a transition to appreciation of more traditional gypsy folk. In other words, Gogol Bordello blows your brain out the fucking gringosphere. But enough about them, I’ve blogged them to death already. Big picture time! There is a wide word of music made by this well-traveled culture. This is epitomized in art nowhere better than Tony Gatliff’s Latcho Drom – a unique musical documentary chronicling the migration of the gypsy people through time and space — from the East in the past, to the West in the 1970s. Find it. Watch it. The playlist kicks off with a clip from it.

Gypsy music is the throb of a heart coursing with living passion, pain, journey, and joy. Through music we learn much — not just about the topics of the song, but about the history, culture, politics, and myths from which the artists and their work emerge. Here’s hoping the art referenced below opens your mind to all of the above and more.

El Playlist

and, since I do too much geospatial stuff at work,

El Mapa


Artists of note and short summaries in stream-of-consciousness order:

Fanfare Ciocarlia

Brass band with stupendiferous energy! These guys were formerly the village band for a town in Romania. They got picked up by the fantastic German label Asphalt Tango, and have been touring the world since. They are accomplished with folk songs, but don’t limit themselves to them; their imaginative embellished covers of popular songs like “Born to Be Wild” and “Moliendo Cafe” stick like thorns in the side of anyone so imprudent as to be a purist. That is a Good Thing (TM) and a Very Fun Thing(TM).

Taraf De Haidouks

Holy String Band Batman! Keep a look out for the Latcho Drom clip of this band killing it in a muddy village center. Dirtiness be damned, these dudes put on their Sunday best and burn more calories on their violins and hammered dulcimers than you burn in a week. They hail from a Romanian village near Bucharest. They also got snatched up by Asphalt Tango and a label called Crammed Disks.

Mahala Raï Banda

Back to Brass with Bucharest-based Mahala Rai Banda! I think their music is a palatable party-and-a-half. They rendered chairs absolutely useless at the Wisconsin Union Theater when they came for an international music fest years ago. Apart from the songs included in the playlist, try seducing the uninitiated with Shantel’s remixes of Mahalageasca and Spoitoresa.

Parno Graszt

Push all beatboxing you have ever heard aside — Parno Graszt has got them one-two-or-twelve-upped. Check out the track “Drunk of Sorrow”. I saw them at a lakeside show at the Wisconsin Union Terrace a few years back. They tried to teach us the refrain of one of their songs. The audience’s Roma and Hungarian were a bit rusty, so they translated: “Oh my darling I love you, oh my darling I love you, I love you so much that I throw you in the lake.” Had to buy that discography… couldn’t help it — this band whose name means “White Horse” enraptures me with their fast-paced dance numbers, artfully sorrowful laments, and that inhuman beatboxing.

Goran Bregovich

In an interview, Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello once described Goran Bregovich as a “maniac.” Keep in mind that this is coming from Eugene “4-hour-shows” “Nonstop-yearlong-global-tours” Hutz. While Eugene’s mania frequently manifests itself in a great deal of soulful inarticulate shouting (don’t get me wrong, I love it), Goran’s meticulous compositions and artfully executed arrangements strike one with awe. I can tell this guy is awake for days finding the perfect notes to complete the bar in the precise way my brain doesn’t yet know it needs. “Ederlezi’s” soul-searching majesty is unrivaled. I can’t remember how many times his band’s rendition of the Italian Anti-Fascist anthem “Bella Ciao” has provoked spontaneous dance parties. His collaboration on “Balkaneros” with the Gypsy Kings keeps the party stomping. I am officially the luckiest person that ever lived for randomly showing up in Barcelona in time for one of his concerts.

Emir Kusturica

This man’s artistic talent traverses mediums. Among other films, he is the director of “Black Cat White Cat.” FIND IT! WATCH IT! “Black Cat White Cat” is about life, death, love, sex, crime, money, youth, old age, resurrection, watering telephone poles, copulating pets, a car-eating pig, gold teeth, gold guns, roving tree stumps, giants, midgets, and more — a dramatized snapshot of life in a community of Gypsies in a town on the Danube. The soundtrack is to die for. Kusturica and his No Smoking Orchestra pull out all the stops. I was blown away by these guys in Madrid. See here for a description of their live show.

Also in this playlist, KANIZSA CSILLAGAI, BESH O DROM, Kocani Orkestar, Balkan Beat Box, Slavic Soul Party, Kal, Boban Markovic.


If this post whetted your appetite, and you are hungry for more, Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello had published a fantastic list of recommendations on the band’s official page. Unfortunately the website was redesigned and the content has never been carried over from the old version of the site. You can still access it though — web archive machine to the rescue!:


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