Trans Europe Fes
Gypsy wedding music is only the starting point for Plankton's
end-of-the-summer world music festival
Japanese, like many, tend to opt for the most conservative
of wedding music-Here Comes the Bride and the Wedding March
are the staples. But in the Romanian countryside they like
something altogether different.
Gypsy brass bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia, who will be visiting
Japan next week, are called on to spice up weddings with a
kind of high-velocity marching music that has its roots in
the Turkish military bands that provided the sonic accompaniment
to the Ottoman Dynasty's rule of the area in the 19th century.
Weddings and other celebrations may take up an entire weekend,
and bands are reported to play over 30 hours non-stop.
Like another Romanian band that has toured Japan in recent
years, the string-centered Taraf De Haidouks, Fanfare Ciocarlia
find themselves on an unlikely roller-coaster ride that has
taken them from obscurity to fame on the world music circuit
in just a few short years.
Less than a decade ago, Fanfare Ciocarlia were a group of
unknown part-time musicians who inhabited the village of Zece
Prajinia ("ten fields"), located in the rural hinterland
of eastern Romania between the Carpathian mountains and the
border of Moldavia. Famed for its rugged natural beauty, eastern
Romania is also known as the home to Gypsy brass bands who
carry on the musical traditions of the Ottoman occupation
of what are now Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Wanting to learn more about this untamed music, a young German
musician, Henry Ernst, traveled to the area. Arriving in Zece
Prajinia, he hooked up with a clarinet-playing farmer, Ioan
Ivancea, who introduced Ernst to his band, Fanfare Ciocarlia.
Taken with the unbridled energy of their sound, Ernst set
out to record them and bring them out on tour.
This unlikely story, which propelled them from their village
to a position as one of the top draws on the world music scene,
is now the subject of a film, Brass on Fire, playing at Euro
Space theater in Shibuya. Interspersing documentary footage
with reenactments of their discovery, the film offers a good
introduction to their music, which is centered around traditional
brass instruments like the trumpet as well as more exotic
ones such as the sousaphone.
One scene in the movie features Fanfare Ciocarlia facing off
with the police over a performance they gave in front of Shibuya
station during their first tour of Japan, in 2000. Fanfare
Ciocarlia had been invited by world music promoter Plankton,
which regularly stages a series of concerts it calls "Gypsy
Summer" toward the end of the season.
Plankton this year, however, decided to broaden the remit
of its "Gypsy Summer" program, adding two European
roots music groups and retitling it "Trans Europe Fes:
Gypsy Summer Expansion."
Among the two groups, Japanese fans will be familiar with
Kila, a Celtic pop group that Plankton has brought to Japan
on previous occasions. First visiting in '98, they blend the
traditional music of Ireland with Gypsy, Afrobeat and progressive
rock influences. The band's leadman, Rónán Ó
Snodaigh, will be opening the festival with a solo gig in
advance of Kila's shows.
The wildcard in the festival is Think of One, an improbable
group that in its current incarnation brings together six
Belgian musicians with four Brazilians. Formed as a jazz group
in '96 in Brussels, the original core Think of One first gained
acclaim with an on-the-spot collaboration with Moroccan musicians
that they named Marrakech Emballages.
For the new grouping, which can be heard on their just released
album Chuva Em Po, they traveled to the poor northeast Brazilian
city of Recife, where they followed a similar approach, blending
their basic jazz, funk and reggae style with the vigorous
rhythms of samba and bossa. The four Brazilian musicians who
are joining Think of One on their current tour include three
vocalists and a percussionist wizard simply known as "Caranca."
Aug 27, 7pm, ¥5,500, Shibuya Club Asia; Aug 28, 6pm,
¥7,000, Sumida Triphony Hall; Sep 1 & 2, 7pm, ¥6,500,
Shibuya O-East. Tel: Plankton 03-3498-2881. Info: plankton.co.jp
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