TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS-OF LOVERS, GAMBLERS AND PARACHUTE SKIRTS.

TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS-OF LOVERS, GAMBLERS AND PARACHUTE SKIRTS.

Twenty-five years ago, Taraf de Haïdouks made their debut. Little did anyone realise that this was the start of musical journey that would see Taraf de Haïdouks crowned “the best Gypsy band in the world.” That’s quite an accolade. However, anyone that’s seen Taraf de Haïdouks live, will agree with this. 

Live, Taraf de Haïdouks seamlessly flit between heartfelt ballads to love songs, through old school dance tunes and Turkish tinged instrumentals. It’s a potent mix of musical genres. This mix of musical genres also features on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, Taraf de Haïdouks’ latest album, which will be released on Crammed Discs, on 26th January 2015.

Of Lovers, Gambers and Parachute Skirts sees Taraf de Haïdouks celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. Fittingly, Taraf de Haïdouks revisit the music that’s influenced them. They also revisit their back-catalogue. However, what should be a celebration, is tinged with sadness.

Sadly, Of Lovers, Gambers and Parachute Skirts features a very different lineup of Taraf de Haïdouks. Four of the original members of Taraf de Haïdouks have passed away. The loss of  Ion Manole, Neculae Neacsu, Cacurica and Ilie Iorga was a huge blow to Taraf de Haïdouks. That could’ve derailed many groups. Not Taraf de Haïdouks. They continue to tour relentlessly, and record albums.  

Their latest album, Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts is Taraf de Haïdouks’ sixth solo album. To celebrate twenty-five years together, Taraf de Haïdouks have enlisted three old friends The first is vocalist Tsagoi, the son of the legendary, late Neacsu. He’s joined by Gheorghe Manole, who is following in the footsteps of his father, the late, great Ion Manole. The final guest artist is Viorica Rudareasa, who sang Taraf de Haïdouks’ iconic song Dumbala Dumb. Along with Taraf de Haïdouks, they play their part in a celebration of the music of “the best Gypsy band in the world.” Their story began back in 1990.

Taraf de Haïdouks roots are in Clejani, in Romania. That’s where they were formed twenty-five years ago, in 1990. Previously, the members of Taraf de Haïdouks had been playing at baptisms, weddings, funerals and harvests. However, during the next twenty-five years, Taraf de Haïdouks’ music was constantly changing. 

The first change was when accordions found their way into the traditional bands, like Taraf de Haïdouks. This was a first. Previously, just violins and cymbalums featured. However, Taraf de Haïdouks embraced this change, and would continue to do so for the next twenty-five years.

Then the urban cabaret style started to feature heavily. Soon, Turkish melodies and rhythms influenced Taraf de Haïdouks. Later, the harmonies and structures became more complex. This suited Taraf de Haïdouks. They enjoyed the opportunity to showcase their talent. It was during this period, that instrumental music became more popular. However, Taraf de Haïdouks didn’t just jump onboard a passing bandwagon. No. They mixed the old and the new. That’s why Taraf de Haïdouks have been together twenty-five years and released eleven albums.

Having formed in 1990, Taraf de Haïdouks released their debut album in 1990. This was Musique Des Tziganes De Roumanie, which was released on Cramworld. Musique Des Tziganes De Roumanie caught the attention not just just of critics, cultural commentators and record buyers, but a film director.

Not long after releasing Musique Des Tziganes De Roumanie, Taraf de Haïdouks became stars of the sliver screen. They appeared in Tony Gatlif’s influential Latcho Drom film. This brought Taraf de Haïdouks to the attention of a much wider audience. Since then, Taraf de Haïdouks have rubbed shoulders with fashion designers and film stars. They’ve worked with fashion designer Yohji Yamamotos on Paris and Tokyo shows, and appeared alongside Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Sally Potter’s The Man Who Cried. Despite this, Taraf de Haïdouks live quietly in the village of Clejani, in the Valachian countryside. That’s apart from when they’re making music.

Making music is what Taraf de Haïdouks seem to do most of the time. Having released their debut album in 1991, Taraf de Haïdouks released their sophomore album in 1994. This was Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses And Evil Eye (Musique Des Tsiganes De Roumanie – Volume 2). After its release on Cramworld, Taraf de Haïdouks’ star continued to be in the ascendancy.

It seemed that word was continuing to spread about Taraf de Haïdouks. Norwegian rock star Åge Aleksandersen asked Taraf de Haïdouks to collaborate on his 1997 album, Fredløs | Dylan På Norsk. This allowed a wider audience to hear Taraf de Haïdouks’ music. 

So, when they released Dumbala Dumba in 1998, it was to a much wider audience. What also helped in the rise and rise of Taraf de Haïdouks, was that they toured relentlessly. It seemed that Taraf de Haïdouks were constantly on tour. However, they still found time to record their next album.

During 2001, Taraf de Haïdouks worked on three albums. This included their fourth solo album, Band Of Gypsies. Taraf de Haïdouks also collaborated with Outlaws Of Yore on two albums Outlaws Of Yore II / Les “Haïdouks” D’Autrefois I and Outlaws Of Yore II / Les “Haïdouks” D’Autrefois II. It seemed that Taraf de Haïdouks were getting a taste of life in the recording studio. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

Four years passed before Taraf de Haïdouks released another album. The Continuing Adventures Of Taraf De Haïdouks was released in 2005. Critical acclaim accompanied The Continuing Adventures Of Taraf De Haïdouks, which was the first of a quartet of albums Taraf de Haïdouks released for Crammed Discs.

Two years after the release of The Continuing Adventures Of Taraf De Haïdouks, came Maškaradă. This was Taraf De Haïdouks’ fifth solo album. Maškaradă was released to critical acclaim. Indeed, so good was Maškaradă that Taraf de Haïdouks were crowned “the best Gypsy band in the world.” That’s quite an accolade. So, most people thought Taraf De Haïdouks would be in a hurry to record their next studio album.

Wrong. Four years passed before Taraf De Haïdouks with Band Of Gypsies 2. No. It was the fourth collaboration of Taraf De Haïdouks’ career. However, what a collaboration Band Of Gypsies 2 was. Taraf De Haïdouks couldn’t have picked a better collaborator. Macedonia based, Koçani Orkestar, are without doubt, one of the best, and most innovative Balkan brass bands. They were yin to Taraf De Haïdouks’ yang on Band Of Gypsies 2. That’s why Band Of Gypsies 2 was one of the best collaborations of Taraf De Haïdouks’ career. However, Taraf De Haïdouks’ fans longed for another solo album. Surely, it wouldn’t be much longer?

Another four years passed before Taraf De Haïdouks announced that Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts would be released on Crammed Discs, on 26th January 2015. This will be a fitting tribute to not just Taraf De Haïdouk’s twenty-five year career, and Ion Manole, Neculae Neacsu, Cacurica and Ilie Iorga who sadly, have passed away. They all played their part in the rise and rise of Taraf De Haïdouks. Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts is a celebration of a twenty-five year musical journey, and those who played a part and made it possible. This includes the latest lineup of Taraf De Haïdouks.

Taraf De Haïdouks’ lineup of on features flautist Gheorghe Falcaru, violinists Anghel Gheorghe “Caliu,” Robert Gheorghe, Constantin Lautaru “Costica” and Paul Giuclea “Pasala. They’re joined by accordionist Marin Manole and “Marius” Marin P. Manole. Filip Simeonov plays clarinet and Ion Tanase “Ionica” plays cymbalum. Constantin Lautaru “Costica and Marin P. Manole also add lead vocals on two tracks each. With a little help from their friends, Taraf De Haïdouks recorded Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts.

On Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, Taraf De Haïdouks fuse musical genres and influences over fourteen disparate tracks. Seamlessly, Taraf De Haïdouks flit between heartfelt ballads to love songs, through old school dance tunes and Turkish tinged instrumentals. It’s a potent mix of musical genres that’s a reminder of why Taraf De Haïdouks are called “the best Gypsy band in the world.” 

That’s apparent from the opening bars of Balalau From Bucharest. Propelled along by gypsy violins, a bass and accordions, musical influences old and new combine. They’re joined by Viorica Rudareasa’s vocal. It’s the perfect addition this irresistible and joyous musical celebration. It’s the perfect way to begin celebrating twenty-five years of Taraf De Haïdouks.

There’s no let up on Moldavian Shepherds’ Dance. Again the bass, and scratchy, gypsy violins drive the arrangement along. This is the first of the instrumentals and is a tantalising taste of another side of Taraf De Haïdouks, one that’s akin to a call to dance.

Very different from the previous tracks is Cold Snowball. It features a soul-searching vocal from Constantin Lautaru “Costica. Accompanied by a wistful, dramatic arrangement, Taraf De Haïdouks’ relentlessly toys with your heartstrings.

The Fields Are Blooming follows in the footsteps of Moldavian Shepherds’ Dance. It’s best described as an explosion of joy, where Taraf De Haïdouks give thanks for a plentiful harvest. 

As the tempo drops, Clejani Love Song is akin to an outpouring of emotion. As the violins, accordion and bass play, a heartachingly beautiful vocal from Marin P. Manole tugs at your heartstrings. It’s captivating, beautiful, needy and hopeful. 

Manele Pomak sees Taraf De Haïdouks. Sharp stabs of violins and accordion give the track an almost cinematic sound. Then a clarinet adds a Turkish influence. By then, Taraf De Haïdouks are painting pictures with their music. You imagine Manele Pomak as the soundtrack to a thriller set in downtown Istanbul.

Bursting into life, The High Balcony In Ciolpan grabs your attention. Then the tempo slows, and the violins and accordion play deliberately. They provide the backdrop for a vocal bathed in emotion. Sadness and melancholy are ever-present, as memories come flooding back. The result is a poignant and moving track.

Where Do You Come From, Dear Lady? sees Taraf De Haïdouks up the tempo. As the bass drives the arrangement urgently along, violins sweep and accordions play. As the dramatic, urgent arrangement unfolds, a tender, thoughtful and questioning female vocal enters. She’s determined to discover Where Do You Come From, Dear Lady? before the track reaches its dramatic crescendo.

Slow, deliberate and minimalist describes the introduction to No Snow, No Rain. So does eerie, atmospheric and cinematic. Mostly, that’s down to the scratchy violin that takes centre-stage. Its accompanied by a subtle bass and accordion. For a minute, it provides a cinematic backdrop. Then its replaced a male vocal. His vocal is emotive and impassioned. He delivers each word with feeling, while an understated arrangement compliments what’s akin to a vocal masterclass.

Urgently and joyously, I’ll Tell You How It Is In The Other World bursts into life. Violins, bass and accordions urgently drive the celebratory arrangement along. They’re joined by Constantin Lautaru “Costica’s deliberate, thoughtful vocal. Meanwhile, the rest of Taraf De Haïdouks play thoughtfully. When the vocal drops out, they’re allowed to stretch their legs. After this, Constantin and the rest of Taraf De Haïdouks play with urgency, emotion and drama.

Dance Suite a la clejani is another of the instrumentals on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts. As the bass provides the heartbeat and accordions interject. Taking centre-stage is Gheorghe Falcaru’s flute, and later, Filip Simeonov’s clarinet. Scratchy gypsy violins take charge, and with the rest of Taraf De Haïdouks drive the arrangement to a dramatic high.

Mother, My Little Mama is a heartfelt ballad with a difference. While the vocal is slow and deliberate, the arrangement races along. Propelling it along, are accordions, violins and the ever-present bass. After the vocal drops out, the rest of Taraf De Haïdouks enjoy the opportunity to showboat. It’s as if the beauty and emotion of the vocal has driven them to greater heights. What follows is proof that Taraf de Haïdouks are “the best Gypsy band in the world.” 

Abruptly, and deliberately, violins set the scene for the vocal on I’ve Got A Parachute Skirt. Again, it’s an outpouring of emotion. The vocal takes centre-stage, while the urgent, dramatic, violins, bass and accordions play a supporting role. That’s until the vocal drops out. Mostly, though, it’s the vocal that plays a starring role on I’ve Got A Parachute Skirt.

Marius’ Lament closes Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts. Straight away, wistful violins join with accordions in a heart wrenching, but beautiful, melancholy, lament.

There aren’t many groups that get to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. This year, however, Taraf de Haïdouks celebrate twenty-five years making music. They’ve come a long way in the past twenty-five years.

In the early days, Taraf de Haïdouks played weddings, festival and baptisms. That was just a starting point. Soon, Taraf de Haïdouks’ star was in the ascendancy. They became stars of the silver screen and rubbed shoulders with fashion designer Yohji Yamamotos and film stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci. Despite this, Taraf de Haïdouks stayed true to their roots. They never left  in the village of Clejani, in the Valachian countryside. That’s apart from when they’re making music.

Over the past twenty-five years, Taraf de Haïdouks have spent a great deal of time making music. They’ve collaborated on five albums and recorded six studio albums. Taraf de Haïdouks’ latest album is Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, which will be released on Crammed Discs, on 26th January 2015. Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts features Taraf de Haïdouks doing what they do best.

That’s seamlessly flitting between heartfelt ballads to love songs, through old school dance tunes and Turkish tinged instrumentals on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts. It’s a captivating, potent and powerful mix of musical genres. Over the fourteen tracks on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, Taraf de Haïdouks take you on a musical and emotional journey. The music veers between beautiful, cinematic and dramatic, to heartfelt and irresistible and urgent. Relentlessly, Taraf de Haïdouks toy with your emotions on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts. That’s why, by the time Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts draws to a close that your realise Taraf de Haïdouk are still “the best Gypsy band in the world.” 

TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS-OF LOVERS, GAMBLERS AND PARACHUTE SKIRTS.

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