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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Beginner’s Guide to Eastern Europe

There are three disks in this comprehensive, sprawling three CD compilation and they have been helpfully divided up into three distinct flavours of Eastern European goodness; Balkan Club, Balkan Brass/Gypsy Greats and Eastern Bloc Rock and Fusion. It sounds great, but in practice they all sound very similar. It’s hard to know where the gyspy greatness ends, the rock starts or where the Balkan Club music mooches in. It’s possibly best reviewed as one massive homogenous Eastern European festival.

The idea of Balkan club music really interested me and after listening to the more dance oriented tracks on the album I’ve started to wonder if there are nightclubs out there in some far flung corner of Bosnia that actually play this kind of music? If so can I be a member? The kind of club that would play DelaDap’s ‘Goldregan’ is as far away from a British night club as I can imagine, not that I’ve been to one for 25 years. The mental picture evoked by the track is of swirling gypsy frocks, dervish dancing, vodka swilling, backslapping friendly folk all singing along, and maybe a tasty hog roast cooking away in the corner and lashings of ice cold creamy milk from Balkan cows to cool everyone down. I doubt this exists, but don’t ruin the fantasy.

The pick of the tracks on show are the afore mentioned ‘Goldregan’ which has more feel good factor in one second than the entire output of Red Bull UK in a year. It’s fun, frolicsome and infectious with a smattering of gypsy rhythm and Balkan brass. Adir Adrim’s ‘Balkan Beat Box’ is similarly engaging with a chugging guitar rhythm combined with vocals that sound like an Eastern version of the Frank Chickens, in a good way of course. Best of all is the wailing, powerful splendour of the fantastic Esma Redzepova. It’s all in the voice and Esma belts it out with a ferocity and intensity rarely seen in Western Europe. It’s a classic, catchy slice of traditional folk music from the renowned Macedonian-Romani vocalist and humanitarian.

All in all it’s a fantastic selection of Eastern European gems and is great value for money with every track a winner. The Beginner’s Guide series is one of the best world music compilation packages and the Eastern Europe version is one of the best so far. Next on the Beginner’s Guide menu is Bhangra!

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