In our search for the crème de la crème of Gypsy music Berlin Asphalt Tango Records couldn't be overlooked and yours truly is delighted now also being able to present their productions.
Even though, for all kinds of practical and financial reasons, touring with a large brass band like Fanfare Ciocarlia is probably no mean feat, for 'Queens And Kings' (and the accompanying tour) the Romanians invited a whole host of guests. In addition to Tato and his band Kaloome, Florentina Sandu and Jony Iliev, who joined Fanfare Ciocarla for the tour, the album also offers contributions from Hungarian Mitsou, Esma Redzepova, originating from Macedonia, and Serbian Gypsy king Saban Bajramovic. Need it be said this guest list results in an album that is a Gypsy feast from start to finish? Meant as a tribute to the recently deceased godfather of Fanfare Ciocarlia, Ioan Ivancea (shown with his wife on the cover of the album), this album proves Fanfare Ciocarlia is still at the top of its game. Recommended listening!
The music of Romanian Oana Catalina Chitu is of a very different order, as on some old 78 rpm records she rediscovered the fascinating musical past of pre-war Bucharest. Only the most seasoned collector of Gypsy music would have suspected that this now grey and dreary Eastern European metropolis was once a fascinating stopover of the Orient Express and the cradle of Gypsy tango. Chitu takes the listener back in time and with little effort recreates the atmosphere of a smoky nightclub from the interwar period. Her music, a mix of the tangos of well-known Romanian artists from the era like Jean Moscopol and Cristian Vasile and the folk ballads of Maria Tanase (sometimes called the Romanian Edith Piaf), one moment hints at Marlene Dietrich, next to the fado of, for example, Madredeus and finally at the cimbalom sounds of Taraf de Haïdouks.
We end this first Asphalt Tango selection firmly back in the twenty-first century. La Cherga, a band called after a Bulgarian patchwork rug, is made up of a hotchpotch of musicians from the Yugoslav war diaspora who effortlessly manage to blend Balkan brass vibes with influences from Jamaican reggae and dub. In fact, the similarities in rhythm between these two types of music were something yours truly, being a purebred reggae fanatic, had already noticed on several occasions.