Mahala Rai Banda ‘Balkan Reggae’ CD EP (Asphalt Tango) 4/5

Rumanian reggae is only marginally less known than the folk music of the country in the UK and this project stems from a number, ‘Balkan Reggae’ that featured on a 2009 album entitled ‘Ghetto Blasters’. In essence it was a Rumanian gypsy band paying homage to Jamaican reggae and this latest CD, which is really more of an extended EP (or alternatively a take on the Jamaican ‘version’ LP format of the 1970s) weighing in at just over thirty minutes, is the same track reworked and remixed in a variety of contexts by different musicians. The first, and most conventional version, focuses on roots reggaqe and features Gregory Fabulous on lead vocals before going into an instrumental part with melodica and brass emphasized to the full. In a more soulful vein are G-Vibes take with vocals by Errol Linton and this is a lovely balance of Balkan folk meets brass and reggae rhythms. Dub producer Mad Professor is on hand to offer some echo-infused riddims and the instrumental elements are brought to the fore with keyboards and heavy drum beat featuring prominently. Kobi Israelite with singer Annique contributes a more contemporary dance feel and a more spaced out sound. For those in search of rootsier Rumanian folk meets reggae head on, then the version by La Cherga featuring the vocals of Adisa Zvehic will appeal and includes some dub echoes. Nine versions in all and something of a hark back to the past in overall approach. Tim Stenhouse

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