Monday 11 July 2011

Blast off

As someone interested in learning about and performing music from a part of the world (Eastern Europe) that I do not live in (northeastern USA), I face a constant challenge of explaining what and why I am playing. Despite the fact that much of the music I play comes from specific times and places, there is a tendency among venues and press outlets to simplify a vast tapestry of historical and cultural traditions under a single phrase, be it 'Balkan skronk' or the full geographic and musical violation we recently recieved - 'Baltic Jazz' (can you think of a more ignorable genre)?

Most of the simplification comes from not knowing much about Eastern Europe, and by default, it's music. So, in an effort to provide some context to my blog posts in the coming weeks, I am sharing here a few of my favorite youtube hits that demonstrate the styles of music I will be exploring in Serbia.

Both of these videos were filmed at the Amala School, so I will likely be spending more time with these guys.


Ljiljana Petrovic (Buttler) and Ljubisa Pavkovic are two of the most well-know Serbian Rom musicians that were successful performing traditional music. Both flourished (relatively speaking) in the Former Yugoslavia with state-sponsored support for folk music. Ljubisa Pavkovic is playing a kolo here, a very popular Serbian dance form. Much of the juice of thos music lies in the ornaments, which are often as fast as they are complex. What sounds like a single gesture, when slowed down, turns out to be a tightly packed cluster of nested flourishes. Ornaments, more than any other aspect of this music, are what make it so distinct (and difficult).

I leave for Iceland in two hours. The gears are turning.

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