Album Reviews

Taraf de Haïdouks & Koçani Orkestar – Band Of Gypsies 2

(Crammed) UK release date: 25 April 2011

First things first- let’s get the “My Big Fat Gypsy…” pun out of the way. Band Of Gypsies 2 sees two famous Balkan Gypsy bands come together for a union that comprises of no less than a logistically eye-watering 26 members. It’s a mighty meeting spanning different cultures and generations and the result is a playful and dramatic roster of tracks – Think of it as My Big Fat Gypsy Freak-out.

The scope of the album takes us on a whistle-stop tour of geographic influences such as Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Turkey. It’s fiery, passionate, energetic and the pace rarely lets up. The result of this union is that Taraf De Haïdouks are now complemented with a beefed up brass accompaniment. Comparisons can be made with the UK’s own Bellowhead both in size and sound, especially as the first thing you hear is a wall of fiddles and horns hitting you with the rowdy opening track I’m a Gigolo. This is an immediately playful, comic and infectious album good enough to fuel an evening full of drunken dancing and debauchery around a campfire. Perhaps the most understated achievement of this collection is that these new songs feel like they’ve been around for years.

If there’s one thorn it is side, it’s the fact that the vocals can sometimes feel like a drunken uncle doing his party piece at a wedding. But the lack of vocal polish lends an air of sincerity to the proceedings and the legless uncle becomes endearing rather than a family embarrassment.

As with a lot of world music, those who are not blessed with linguistic know-how can feel like they’re not getting the whole picture. The vocals on the album veer from humorous and bawdy to melancholic, and while you can certainly grasp the gist of what’s going on, it does stop you from being further immersed in the fun. However, there are plenty of rampant instrumentals that will make you whirl like a dervish.

This is a lengthy album and one thing that you become aware of towards the end is how epic it gets in terms of ambition. The playfulness is not thrown away towards the end, but there is a visible attempt to stretch further and the closer of Gypsy Sahara is a good example of the giddy heights reached.

This collaboration might not win over any new fans to the genre, but if gypsy music is your thing you’ll find plenty of delights. This big fat disc certainly deserves a high rating on its ambition and enthusiasm alone.

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More on Taraf de Haïdouks
Taraf de Haïdouks – Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts
Taraf de Haïdouks & Koçani Orkestar – Band Of Gypsies 2
Taraf de Haïdouks @ Hackney Empire, London