Hi again. Dan Talmo, co-host of Global Revolutions, reporting from WOMEX, the World Music Expo in Budapest, Hungary.
Once in a while you run into a perfect evening of music. The first night of showcases at WOMEX 2015 featured 15 bands on five stages. We had to choose carefully. We managed to see six bands. All were exceptional.
We started off with ILGI from Latvia. They performed at the Madison World Music Festival a few years ago. That visit included a nice interview and performance in the WORT studio. They bill themselves as a traditional folk band but they rock out a bit harder than they claim. All for the good, though. The band is exceptionally tight featuring violin and kantele.
Aziza Brahim from Mali performed next in the large concert hall. She has a beautifully clear voice and was accompanied by acoustic guitar and a wonderfully slick electric jazz guitar plus two percussionists. Together they drove a strong, North African desert blues sound.
We only had a few minutes to spare with Kleztory, a Montreal-based Klezmer band. We heard a wonderfully haunting version of Ajde Jano, an oft-covered Macedonia tune.
Next we spent 45 minutes with Kálmán Balogh and Miklós Lukács who bill themselves as the Cimbalom Duo. The cimbalom is an orchestra-sized hammered-dulcimer. Balogh has performed numerous times in Madison and is a favorite among WORT international programmers. These two were in total synch. In the hands of a good player, the cimbalom can be both rhythm and lead at the same time. Here were two guys both doing rhythm and lead at the same time, and with such speed that the hammers were at times a visual blur.
We had a short break before the next act so stopped in to see Federspiel a young eight-piece Austrian brass band. This group had great chemistry and creative arrangements of both traditional Austrian folk and contemporary-composed pieces. They incorporated plenty of syncopation and percussion into their selections, even including some vocal harmonizing and yodeling. In commentary between pieces about how some of their material comes from outside Austria, one member had a nice quote about the European refugee crisis. Paraphrasing, he talked about how folk music is constantly changing and transforming. Fifty years into the future, what may be viewed as Austrian folk music, would today be considered a cross between Austrian and Syrian music.
We finished the evening with Jaakko Laitinen and Väärä Raha from Finland in the big tent outside. In my intro edition to this blog I posted a video link and mentioned how interested I was to hear them live. They did not disappoint. Jaakko is a fine singer with a strong stage presence. The band’s focus is mostly Balkan and pan-east European featuring brass and accordion, but with an essence of their Finnish homeland. During the performance, Jaakko made one of my favorite quotes I heard at WOMEX thus far. He said, “The next tune is from Russia. We will sing it in Finnish so you will understand it.” I spoke with Jaakko about his sources and inspiration from the Balkans. They began playing Balkan music some ten years ago and had a hard time understanding and finding lyrics for their favorite songs so Jaakko decided to write new lyrics. All of their songs are now sung in Finnish.
What bands will tomorrow night bring?
Photos by Paula A. White
Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha