I have a problem. I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with anything pertaining to Gypsy culture. Music, film, literary explorations, poetry, non-fiction, folk-tales, food, language, fashion; I love it all. I have no good reason for this cultural obsession, except maybe my innate wanderlust that's so easily transferable to that Romani ideal of no-strings-attached to land. The constant traveling makes sense to me, as does the constant celebration of life over work instead of work over life. I like the fact that the Romani are so family oriented, that they paint their homes in wild colors with crazy flowers, and that the direct translation for a Romani request for a kiss is "may I eat your face?".
I've already lavished praise upon Django Reinhardt (the father of Gypsy jazz), Chocolat, Gogol Bordello, and Devotchka in this blog. Can you lovely readers see a trend? All I can tell you is, if you're bored with the Gypsy sound, then you better find another blog to read, at least for today.
Yesterday, I came across a band called Fishtank Ensemble. They've been around for a few years now, and they released their second album in the Fall of 2007. This album, Samurai Over Serbia, is an exploration in the cross-pollination of world music. With instruments as varied as the shamisen and violintrombo, the seven musicians that currently make up Fishtank Ensemble celebrate the sounds of the East and the West, and bring the cultures closer together with their music. On "Turkish March", the Fishtank Ensemble apply their travels to a much-loved Mozart tune, with solos from their many instruments and a spirit of recklessness to their playing. It's as if their instruments could just fly off if they don't play them fast enough, and with enough vigor and violence to almost break them. "Spirit Prison" is a wailing song that cashes in on Gypsy jazz with a decidedly supernatural bent. "Face The Dragon" is the looping soundtrack to a caravan-chase scene through mountainous terrain. Within the celebratory nature of the playing there is an almost nihilistic intensity. Again these instruments are producing fun but almost threatening music, and the sound resembles that of a summer storm that's threatening a lightning strike. "Gitanos Californeros" is desert music, that dances around Devotchka territory; while, "Youkali" is operatic and definitely influenced by Bizet's Carmen, appropriate given the fact that Carmen herself was a gypsy woman.
Enjoyed as a group, the twelve songs on Samurai Over Serbia are musical excursions that make up a long and nonlinear journey. Just as Django played the rhythm around the melody and found a melody of his own, Fishtank Ensemble plays around the countries they claim to visit. In this way, the Ensemble creates a country of their own. The terrain is rugged and treacherous, but the promise of adventure is worth all the danger.