Fanfare Ciocarlia - Balkan Brass Battle

Posted By MiOd On Saturday, August 17, 2013 Under
I have been listening to Balkan Brass Band music for a few years and have albums from both Fanfare Ciocarlia and Boban & Marko Markovic. So when I found out that Asphalt Tango Records was putting them together for Balkan Brass Battle, I was curious to see first, how it would be organized and second, how it would sound. As you can imagine, when these bands get together with 25 musicians between them, the sound and energy they put out is amazing. Each has their own style and character, Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania, and Boban & Marko Markovic from Serbia. So there are some obvious cultural differences.

It is these differences that provide the backdrop for the Battle between the two bands. It really is a fabulous idea, and a great way for fans of one band to learn about the music of the other. My only wish would be that this could have been a double album, because I would have liked to hear them play together more.

Of the twelve songs on the album, the two bands join together on four. The most interesting tracks, and where the Battle-Of-The-Bands is truly in play, are on the two tracks of the Jazz classic Caravan. Each band plays nearly the same arrangement of the tune, putting their own unique touches on it. The listener can make a direct comparison in this way, and make his own choice as to the winner. It's a great concept and I applaud Asphalt Tango for being so bold.

While one would not at first glance expect to hear American Jazz from a Balkan band, it should come as no surprise, given the global nature of the World Music scene today. Another example of this is when the combined band takes on the James Bond Theme, one of the best known movie themes. There are some great Trumpet and Sax solos, driving low brass, and great percussion.

Individually, the bands shine in their own styles. Boban & Marko Markovic start things off with Mirak Kolo, a piece that starts with some Jazz-Funk infused with Balkan rhythms to give a nice contrast.

Topdzijsko Kolo is a more traditional tune that is very fast and has some fantastic Trumpet playing, as well as blazing low brass and percussion.

Otpisani has a smooth high brass melody line over moving low brass. It has a lot of Jazz influence, and a different style of drumming. Some reverb added to the Trumpet solo gives this tune a unique character.

Fanfare Ciocarlia gets plenty of space here, too. Their first track, Suita a la Ciobanas, gets right into their traditional groove. Blazing fast high brass with jabbing vocals are what they do best. Midway through the song, they step it up a notch, suddenly increasing the tempo even more. It is amazing how they can keep everything so melodic at that speed, and they do it brilliantly.

Dances From the Monastery Hills keeps them in the traditional style, with leaping high brass lines, tight low brass and percussion to keep everything blazing along. I'm not sure how anyone could dance at this speed, but I'm sure there must be a way.

I Am Your Gummy Bear is their take on a well known song, breaking away from the fast tempo to give a new interpretation. Then they start singing the low brass part. You can tell they are having a lot of fun with it.

But when the band collaborate, that's when the full power of Balkan Brass is unleashed. On Devla right from the intro you can tell that it is going to be great. They play some wider harmonies as a larger ensemble, and do a splendid job of jazzing up the Balkan rhythms. The larger group also allows room for some higher Trumpet work. There is a great Trumpet solo as well.

Disco Dzumbus is the most danceable tune on the album, again meshing a Disco-era melody with Balkan rhythm. Nice high brass accompaniment over the melody at the end. It's a great idea, and makes for some enjoyable listening.

Asfalt Tango is a great song to end with. It is truly a showcase for what both bands can do. Fabulous Sax and Trumpet solos, strong low brass and percussion, some modern feel over the traditional rhythms.

So there you have it. If you are new to Balkan Brass Band music, this would certainly be a great introduction to the two top bands in the genre. As I mentioned earlier, I am a fan of both bands, and now that Balkan Brass Battle is available, and with their extensive touring schedule, this music is sure to be spread to World Music fans everywhere.

So, who won the Battle? I'll let you be the judge. Fanfare Ciocarlia excels at playing in a traditional style than nobody can duplicate. Markovic has a way of incorporating Jazz, Funk, and some modern rhythms with the traditional style. I like them both, and hope to see them performing side by side for years to come.

[01].Battle call
[02].Mrak Kolo
[03].Suita A La Ciobanas
[04].James Bond theme
[05].Caravan
[06].Caravan
[07].Devla
[08].Topdzijsko Kolo
[09].Dances From the Monastery Hills
[10].Disco Dzumbus
[11].I Am Your Gummy Bear
[12].Otpisani
[13].Asfalt Tango

MP3 VBR kbps including Front Cover

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