Tuesday 9 August 2011

Marjan Crstic Brass Band

This week I had the pleasure of hanging out with the Marjan Crstic band, a 9-piece brass band from Surdulica, Serbia. Each year Surdulica hosts a festival to determine who qualifies to play at the Guca trumpet festival (more on that soon). Of all the Romani musical idioms, the brass band has become the most widespread beyond the Balkans, and for good reason. They are loud, driving, and capable of inducing frenzy.

The Marjan Crstic band play as well as (and some times with) musicians from some of the better-known bands such as Kocani Orchestra and the Markovic brothers, but their circuit lies mostly within the functions of European Roma, which is often far more lucrative than playing for festivals and Gadje (non-Roma). One of the band members showed me a youtube clip of them playing at what looked like a private party at a men's social club in Belgium. The singer they played with made 10,000 euros that night. Not bad.

While working musicians play internationally, the musical traditions of Serbian Roma can be divided broadly into three categories, determined by region. Tamburica (similar to guitar) bands are from the north, violin-based groups are from the west, and brass bands are from the south. If Serbia were to have a national instrument it may well be the accordion.

When the band first showed up last week they got out of their yellow and black van (still faintly lettered for the concrete business that previously drove it) and started playing within minutes. You can' t tell from this clip, but volume was crushing.

Throughout the week the band played a number of gigs in the area, including two weddings I was able to attend. More than a typical wedding band, their role is to announce the arrival of the bride to the site of the wedding celebration. In the case of this clip, they were announcing he arrival some of the family of the bride, who are also our gracious hosts at the Amala School.

In addition to being stellar musicians, the members of the band are friendly and quick to laugh. Although my minimal Serbian and Romanes managed to work out a few vital facts and a misunderstanding about me wanting one of the guys to find me a bride, we found more common ground in a cross-cultural affinity for beer and sharing party tricks.

1 comment:

Carolion said...

that was definitely the sound in my head as i arrived at the scene at my recent nups. thought it was just me.