09 November 2009

Monday's mp3: Blasting Down the Ghetto's Walls

Mahala Raï Banda: Ghetto Blasters (Asphalt Tango)

Their name literally means "Noble Band from the Ghetto," but their ghetto music isn't like our ghetto music. Sure their high-energy music has great beats and impels people to dance, but this isn't hip-hop, it's gypsy brass. The members of Mahala Raï Banda hail from two of the most musically famous villages in Romania: Clejani (home to Taraf de Haidouks) and Zece Prajini (upon whose muddy roads you'll find Fanfare Ciocarlia). While this album is clearly less traditional than the work of those two bands, all the hallmarks of gypsy culture are included, from nimble-fingered brass players to cimbalom to rapid-fire vocals.

For the latter, look no farther than "Nu Mai Beau," which kicks off with a blistering pace and never lets up. They slow down a bit for the swinging "Zabrakadabra," but get truly mellow only on "Balada." Yes, that's a ballad, sung with great pathos, though what he's balladeering about, I have no idea since the album comes with no track notes or translations. Still, you'll hardly notice that having been driven into an ecstatic paroxysm of dance by the frenzied sounds of these gypsy sonic alchemists. Alchemy? Yes indeed. How else could one turn Balkan brass into deep, deep dub? One of my favorite albums of the year, hands down.

[mp3] Mahala Raï Banda: Balkan Reggae
from Ghetto Blasters

More Mahala Raï Banda:
Buy CD
album sampler

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