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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mahala Rai Banda - Ghetto Blasters

This is a work of genius. It's almost literally a cousin of the Romanian fiddling master-class of Taraf de Haidouks, but the violins are supplemented with a whole band of tooting horns and combined with atmospheric vocalists. It's an intoxicating combination and there's no wonder they are famous across Europe for turning every concert and wedding into a wild and raucous party.

The CD cover has a wealth of information: Apparently, all the most gifted musicians come from just two villages in Romania. It's a little like the idea of the original 'Ginger Village' in Scotland from which all us ginger folk evolved, but for musicians in this case. All the greatest violinists, cymbalists, double bass and accordion players come from Clejani, to the South of Bucharest, and it was here that Taraf de Haidouks was formed. Likewise in Zece Prajini, to the North East of Bucharest, is where all the best woodwind and brass players reside, with their own horn based combo, Fanfare Ciocarlia. It was indeed a stroke of genius then, when Aurel Ionita combined musicians from both villages to form the super group of Roma pop, Mahala Rai Banda. As the blurb on the CD states;

"It is in these two villages, lost in the dust, the mud or the ice, according to the season, that you find the creme de la creme, the kings of the rogues, the instrumentalists who are half genius, half rascal, capable of stirring up a wedding party with a single solo launched at supersonic speed."

It works amazing well with a unique blend of fiddling and tooting producing a massive sound of orchestral proportions. It's instantly more accessible than the brilliant Taraf de Haidouks, but similarly possesses a range of levels and subtleties, that are noticeable after repeated listens. For the British music fan, the album contains the same magical vibe that makes whole football stadiums stand up and dance when they play 'One Step Beyond', but with a class and intelligence all of it's own.

Every track is a winner, but my personal favourites are the trumpet fuelled mayhem of 'Nu Mai Beau' with its fantastically enthusiastic vocals and masterful tooting. 'Balkan Reggae' gets all dubby and hypnotic with some great duelling horns towards the end and 'Na James' adds an upbeat female vocal to an already jumping instrumental track. Best of all is the steady build up of 'Hora Din Mahala', and then the whole thing goes ballistic after about thirty seconds.

It's an album that everyone should own and for once the music is as good as the brilliant sleeve design. I can't wait to sample their first, self titled album if it's anywhere near as enjoyable as Ghetto Blasters. As the blurb again reminds us: "May your nights be long, very long indeed!"

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