Monday, May 23, 2011

Rockin' the Ghetto: Mahala Rai Banda

 Mahala Rai Banda is a funky, outrageous band from Romania. They play music like a horse bucking and bolting, like lightning crackling across the sky, like dry wood snapping in the fireplace, like a dam bursting, like water sizzling on a hot plate. They don’t stop and like a runaway train you better get on board and hold on for dear life.

Warning: if you do not smile while listening to this music, you may want to check your pulse.

Mahala Rai Banda, a sort of Balkan equivalent of the Memphis Horns with the rhythm section from Muscle Shoals, these two being the gold standard of soul music, combine power and finesse, groove and virtuosity in their second album Ghetto Blasters, where the pure pleasure of playing and partying overflows. May your nights be long!
In Romania, the most famous and the most gifted musicians live in two villages. In Clejani, just south-west of Bucharest, the violonists, cymbalists, double bass players and other accordion players notably formed the extraordinary Taraf de Haïdouks. In Zece Prajini, north-east of the capital in Moldavia, you can find the greatest density of wind players per square meter, including the brass players of the famous Fanfare Ciocarlia. It is in these two villages, lost in the dust, the mud or the ice, according to the season, that you find the crème de la crème, the kings of the schmekers (rogues), the instrumentalists who are half-genius, half-rascal, capable of stirring up a wedding party with a single solo launched at supersonic speed.
Mahala Rai Banda
The Mahala Rai Banda, supergroup of Roma pop. Appearing at first straightforward, combining the musicians from Clejani and Zece Prajini nevertheless proved to be a lot more complex. A good ensemble is not put together as easily as a martingale in bingo. There is first of all a history of encounters and of never-ending balls spent in Bucharest's wedding bands. According to the tastes and the budget of the future spouses, Roma or gadjes, according to the affinities and the complementarity of the musicians, the lautari reach the big city and form and dissolve tarafs with a variable geometry capable of playing everything : traditional Romanian music, the Gypsy repertoire of the last century, manele or vertiginous adaptations of Abba or Madonna.
The story of Mahala Rai Banda begins at the end of the nineties with Aurel Ionita forming the group Rom Bengale in Bucharest. Their success had hardly begun—when this ensemble of young musicians was plagued and divided by addiction problems. Aurel Ionita then created the initial line-up of the Mahala Rai Banda - a name inspired by the Gypsy suburbs of the big Romanian cities - which released a CD on Crammed Discs in 2004. Extensive international tours follow while their compositions, such as “Kibori”, “Mahalageasac” or “Iest sexy”, are henceforth counted among the classics of Balkan parties from Melbourne to Berlin via Bucharest. Nevertheless, in the opinion of its mentor, the Mahala Rai Banda was still lacking a final formation, a change of regime, in order to at last achieve what Aurel Ionita calls « a real blast of brass ». Regular meetings with the producer tandem of Asphalt Tango, strengthened by their rewarding experience with many other renowned artists, helped Mahala Rai Banda to attain its dream of brass players in delirium and of unstoppable rhythms.  (Ashphalt Tango)

         Track Listing:
1.    Tu Romnie
2.   Nu Mai Beau
3.   Zabrakadbra
4.   Avante Me Fante
5.   Zuki Zuki
6.   Balada
7.   Solo Para Ti
8.   Hora Din Mahala
9.   Balkan Reggae
10.        Na Janes
11.        Kolo Baro
12.        Am Plecat De Jos

Listen here.

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