In the early 20th century, many composers drew their inspiration from national folklore, often borrowing from Roma musicians to create their own vision of an exotic and largely imaginary Orient. Things have now been turned around, as one of the world's leading Gypsy bands have taken hold of classical pieces by Bartok, Khachaturian Albeniz and more, and have "re-gypsyfied” them, giving them an exhilarating make-over. Starting out in a concert hall, Maskarada takes us through various stages which inevitably lead back to the type of repertoire for which the Taraf de Haidouks are known and loved. We first move imperceptibly into a cabaret, where Gypsy musicians have long been adapting classical pieces to entertain their audiences during the early hours of the night. We're treated to a piece featuring distinguished singer/cymbalum player Virginica Dumitru (the first-ever female Taraf guest instrumentalist) and an interpretation of “Les Portes de la Nuit” (written by French composer Kosma for the sound track of the eponymous 1946 film by Marcel Carne). The mood gradually heats up and the album closes with a wild finale.
For centuries, the Gypsies simultaneously disseminated and transformed local folklores, drawing as much from traditional songs as from formal music, in order to play at the courts of princes. Their style of playing conquered hearts and minds, and eventually became a source of inspiration for the "nationalistic" composers of the19th and early 20th centuries, in search of indigenous roots for their work. As a result of this constant to-and-fro, it is not easy to decide who is wearing the disguise: is it the rural Gypsy band playing a Strauss waltz, or the western European orchestra playing in a "Hungarian" style? It’s a gigantic masquerade, enriched by contributions from all the communities who move around, spreading their influence. It’s like a carnival feast in the Romanian countryside, with the strange pagan masks which decorate the album sleeve and set the mood. A role-playing game to which the Taraf now brings its own feverish and wild touch. Maskarada is set for release September 25.
Also set for release on that date is Nuit Tsigane: Gaetano Fabri Remixes, a compilation entirely remixed by Gaetano Fabri, the resident DJ of the Nuits Tsiganes. The album presents a selection of tracks by established Balkan artists such as Taraf de Haidouks, Fanfare Ciocorlia, Kal and Koyani Orkestar, by fusionists such as Balkan Beat Box and Eastenders, and by up-and-coming Paris-based bands Beltuner, Romashka and DJ Click & Rona Hartner. We're all aware by now of the irresistible ascent of so-called Balkan Clubbing. Championed by albums and remix projects such as Electric Gypsyland and Shantel's Bucovina Club, this growing trend has seen dance floors across the western world trade in their house or techno for lively, fresh and frantic sounds coming straight from southeastern Europe. Situated right in the heart of Pigalle, the Divan du Monde club has been the Parisian outpost of that scene, pioneering the genre for several years with their regular Nuits Tsiganes parties.