Goran Bregovic ‘Champagne for Gypsies’ (Wrasse) 3/5

Balkan folk music may seem to some to be a somewhat restrictive music form which does not go much beyond feelgood party music, but in the hands of Serb multi-instrumentalist Goran Bregovic there is a deliberate attempt to widen its appeal by bringing on board musicians from a variety of other European countries and overall this works quite well. Rumanian gypsy flavours surface on the fast-paced ‘Hopa Cupa’ with pumping brass and clarinet to accompany the vocals of Florin Salam. Even more eclectic is the choice of flamenco-style guitar and vocals from guests the Gypsy Kings on ‘Presidente’ and this unusual fusion comes off, although on the second number featuring the Gyspy Kings, ‘Balkaneros’, the flamenco element does tend to get drowned out somewhat. The German language Swiss singer-songwriter Stephan Eicher’s inclusion comes in the shape of an acapella with collective vocals on ‘Ciribrella, Ciribrella’ and equally on the bright and breezy instrumentation that accompanies ‘Fertig’ with a slight reggae lilt. Traditional Italian song gets a look in on ‘Bella Ciao’ and this is revisited as a brass orchestral piece with Italian vocals. The Irish gypsy tradition is evoked on two songs including the uptempo fiddle number ‘On a leash’ and the title track, both of which feature Selina O’Leary. According to the sleeve notes, some musicians were unable to participate and these include ace Spanish vocalist Concha Buika. Her presence would surely be worth securing for any attempt at a follow up. Tim Stenhouse

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