The rise of Romania’s Fanfare Ciocarlia from rural obscurity to global fame is one of the most amazing and heartwarming stories in all showbiz. The brass band from the tiny village of Zece Prajini in Moldavia, Romania’s north-eastern region, existed in isolation, part of no larger brass band tradition. Somehow, someway – and this mystery is one neither the band nor observers can explain - they created a Balkan brass sound like no other, playing harder, faster, eschewing solos so to emphasize a fierce Eastern funk. Before being discovered by Henry Ernst, Fanfare’s members worked as subsistence farmers or in nearby factories, playing at local weddings and festivities. Arriving in Western Europe in 1996 they destroyed audiences, their furious rush of horns creating a party music more akin to hardcore punk or techno than any recognized Western brass tradition. An instant hit, Fanfare have gone on to tour the world, release five acclaimed albums (including the best selling Queens and Kings with features such noted Romany guest singers as Saban Bajramovic and Esma Redzepova), appeared in films (DVD The Story Of The Band is a superb document of the band as they journey from Zece Prajini to Tokyo!), unintentionally kicked off the Balkan Beats club craze and helped establish Gypsy brass as a recognized genre. Having lost band patriarch Ioan Ivancea to cancer in 2006, Fanfare Ciocarlia (this being a Romanian lark) have taken time out to reflect upon their incredible journey – the Balkan Brass Battle sees them returning to West European stages refreshed and ready to rock.
Boban I Marko Markovic Orchestra
Boban Markovic is, indisputably, the most famous individual brass musician in the Balkans. Born in Vladicin Han, a small town in southern Serbia close to both the Macedonian and Kosovo borders, Boban was forced to play trumpet as a child – his grandfather had played for the King of Yugoslavia and his father, a musical journeyman, ensured his son grew up blowing hard. By his early teens Boban was playing weddings and parties throughout the southern Balkans. He soon began winning audience and jury prizes at the annual Guca Brass Band Festival in central Serbia. Such awards distinguished Boban’s orchestra as the best brass band in Yugoslavia. Much baksheesh followed as Boban’s band played the most ornate weddings, the lushest parties. Inevitably, Goran Bregovic employed Boban’s orchestra to play on the soundtrack of Emir Kusturica’s epic films Arizona Dream and Underground. International art-house hits, these films introduced Balkan Brass to the West. At the same time sanctions against Serbia meant Boban could not then tour. By the time Milosevic’s rotten regime had fallen, Boban’s teenage son Marko had joined his father’s band. Marko, now aged 23, is a prodigy and his hi-energy performances and wild soloing have made him something of a Gypsy rock star. Releasing the sublime Boban I Marko album on Berlin’s Piranha Records, the father and son-lead brass band have gone on to win over international audiences while returning each year to Guca Festival where they show that a Gypsy family band from a prosaic Southern Serbian town remain rooted in the tradition.