It’s been a while since DJ Russ Jones from London and Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton released their seminal compilations of ‘Gypsy Beats and Balkan Bangers’ and the once thriving corresponding scene here is in rather a critical state to be honest.
The bands are a strong as ever, both home and abroad, and there are still mini stronghold nights in Edinburgh and London, but there seems to be a lack of cohesion and certainly a lack of outlets for people to promote their wares. I honestly can’t think of one other blog other than this one which posts new tracks (please let me know if you do, because I’d love to link with them if so) and there’s certainly no mainstream press that has anything close to even a passing interest.
With all this in mind, it’s a surprise how much love the bands receive at Boomtown, and how at home they seem to be. Hardly anyone who has passed the Jolly Dodger stage in the past few years has been able to resist whichever band is currently on, and I’ve no doubt that the new Oldtown Port stage will be little different. Still I feel many of these band require some exploration and explanations as they’ll no doubt be new to many of you.
I will try and do 3 separate posts, one for the international bands (from Ukraine, Serbia and other parts of the Balkans, Venzuela, USA, Mexico, Sweden and Spain) and one for some of the UK bands, which as well as Balkan and Klezmer includes some great Folk fusion and even a couple of Pirates. For this post however I want to concentrate on our Sunday takeover from Batov Records.
Still very much underground and independent, the label has been doing an important job of providing a home for Gypsy and Balkan remix acts here, plus pushing the boundaries and integrating a more UK sound into the mix.
They have a fantastic family of bands and I’m very happy to have some of them at this year’s festival. Here’s a run-down of who they have in store.
As well as being head honchos of the label, Gypsy Hill are easily one of the leading Balkan influenced bands in the country and a firm festival favourite. Unlike many bands they have both a strong live and recorded presence, plus plenty of other artists have benefited from the golden touch of their remixes.
Kaligola Disco Bazar
If anyone has been lucky enough to catch the incredible Veeblefetzer when they’ve played the Jolly Dodger previously, you’re in for a treat as these guys are something of an extended family to those same wonderfully raucous Italians.
Also led by Mondo Cane, an amazing Balkan Beats producer and DJ in his own right, the 7 piece band are a high energy mix of Gypsy melodies, Italian Folk, Electro Swing, Reggae, House, Hip-hop and various Arabic and Eastern influences.
I’ve already posted this video previously but I’m happy for the excuse to include it again. I honestly think it’s something of an overlooked gem.
The band started as a Balkan recital outfit and you can definitely still feel that influence throughout their music, but this track owes just as much to the likes of Leonard Cohen and, Tom Waits, perhaps also bands as diverse as Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Ian Dury and even Pulp. All acts that are close to my heart and those influences run throughout their music. I highly recommend giving their ‘Don’t Wake The Dead’ album a good few listens.
The Discount Orchestra
Now this band are certainly no strangers to the festival and I’m really glad they got picked up by the label for their ‘And She Dances’ EP, not to mention the following remix version which includes offerings from Solo Moderno, Rumpsteppers, DJ Inko and of course Gypsy Hill.
Reminding me a little of the Carny Villains, with their nod to circus in both lyrics and music, these guys are one of the few young Balkan influenced acts in the UK that give me hope for the future. Even just the fact they exist is refreshing, but they also have a solid repertoire of songs and certainly know how to use their instruments. I love them.
Although Indie music (the long bastardised genre not independent music as a whole) is something we avoid at Boomtown, these guys stand out from the crowd and certainly caught my ear for their strong influences that range from Gypsy Jazz to Flamenco. The fact that they’re on Batov is telling. they’re a refreshing change and their high-energy show will be right at home on the Oldtown Port stage.
As with many of these acts, it’s the total mix of sounds and influences that I find utterly refreshing, especially when they blend so perfectly.
With Cherry Bandora, the fact that the lyrics are sang in ‘poetic Greek, rhythmical Turkish and Hebrew slang’ is telling also to the musical influences, though there’s also touches of funk and even surf rock in there too.
As you might imagine, this is the acoustic incarnation of Elektrik Kool Tur whose ‘Hailli’ EP was released on the label. They feature members of Cherry Bandora’s band and despite the rather mellow nature of the Batov release, having come up through the busking scene in Berlin, they are well versed in rocking a crowd.
Not only one of the founding members of both Batov and Gypsy Hill, but a damn fine DJ and producer who has some killer bootlegs floating about, including this one that he just released today!