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World Music CD Reviews Europe

VARIOUS ARTISTS

By Derek Beres
Published June 27, 2006

Blowers From The Balkans
Topic

With a surge of electronic interpretations of traditional Balkan sounds arriving from Europe (heralded by Shantel’s Bucovina Club and bands like Taraf de Haidouks, Kocani Orkestar and Mahala Rai Banda) and even from American acts like Balkan Beat Box and Gogol Bordello, this 25-track compilation serves as a timely ethnographic guide to Eastern European roots music. Originating from Greece and Macedonia (and betraying obvious Turkish influences) as well as Romania, Hungary and Albania, these scratchy tracks frequently seem pulled from archaic sources. The disc’s divided into four sections, including “Romania Style Music” and “Ottoman-Greek café music,” and the various contributors’ technical proficiency is apparent. What’s lacking is the emotional feeling behind the music. A few cuts excepted, such as Georgi Atanasov Kehaivov’s peasant kaval flute playing, the songs amount to little more than interpretations of interpretations, embodying a lifeless sterility, even played on such boisterous instruments as the clarinet and Greek santour. The range of styles and the varying recording quality also make this a tough listen, probably best reserved for ardent students of Balkan folklore.