CHOBAN ELEKTRIK, CHOBAN ELEKTRIK (SELF-RELEASE)
[DUNKELBUNT]
A NEW DAY; LAYA PROJECT REMIXED
ADDIS ACOUSTIC PROJECT
AFRO ROOTS WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
AMADOU & MARIAM
ANTÓNIO ZAMBUJO
APHRODESIA
BALKANBEATS
BANCO DE GAIA
BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC ORKESTAR
BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC
BOY WITHOUT GOD
C.J. CHENIER
CARLOS GOGO GOMEZ
CHOBAN ELEKTRIK
CHOPTEETH
CHRISTIANE D
CHRISTINE VAINDIRLIS
CLARA PONTY
COPAL
CUCHATA
DAMJAN KRAJACIC
DANIEL CROS
DEBO & FENDIKA
DEL CASTILLO
DR JAYANTHI KUMARESH
EARTHRISE SOUNDSYSTEM
EGYPT NOIR
ELIN FURUBOTN
EMILY SMITH
FANFARE CIOCARLIA VS. BOBAN & MARKO MARKOVIC
FEUFOLLET
FIAF PRESENTS WORLD NOMADS MOROCCO: MUSIC
FOOTSTEPS IN AFRICA
GECKO TURNER
GENTICORUM
GEOFF BERNER
GIANMARIA TESTA
GODS ROBOTS
GUARCO
HUUN HUUR TU
INDIAN OCEAN
IRENE JACOB & FRANCIS JACOB
JANAKA SELEKTA
JANYA
JERRY LEAKE
JOAQUIN DIAZ
JOEL RUBIN
JORGE STRUNZ
JOSEF KOUMBAS
JOYFUL NOISE (I GRADE RECORDS)
JUST A BAND
KAMI THOMPSON
KARTICK & GOTAM
KHALED
KHING ZIN & SHWE SHWE KHAING
KITKA'S CAUCASIAN CONNECTIONS PROJECT PERFORMANCES AND WORKSHOPS
KMANG KMANG
KOTTARASHKY AND THE RAIN DOGS
LA CHERGA
LAC LA BELLE
LAYA PROJECT
LENI STERN
LES TRIABOLIQUES
LISTEN FOR LIFE
LOBI TRAORÉ
LO'JO
LOKESH
MAGNIFICO
MAHALA RAI BANDA
MIDNITE
MOHAMMED ALIDU AND THE BIZUNG FAMILY
MR. SOMETHING SOMETHING
MY NAME IS KHAN
NAWAL
NAZARENES
NO STRANGER HERE (EARTHSYNC)
OCCIDENTAL BROTHERS ON TOUR
OCCIDENTAL GYPSY
OREKA TX
ORQUESTRA CONTEMPORÂNEA DE OLINDA
PABLO SANCHEZ
PEDRO MORAES
RAYA BRASS BAND
SALSA CELTICA
SAMITE
SARA BANLEIGH
SARAH AROESTE
SELAELO SELOTA
SHYE BEN-TZUR
SIA TOLNO
SIBIRI SAMAKE
SISTER FA
SLIDE TO FREEDOM II
SONIA BREX
SOSALA
SWEET ELECTRA
SYSTEMA SOLAR
TAGA SIDIBE
TAJ WEEKES
TARANA
TARUN NAYAR
TE VAKA
TELEPATH
THE MOUNTAIN MUSIC PROJECT
THE NATIVE AMERICA NORTH SHOWCASE
THE SPY FROM CAIRO
TITO GONZALEZ
TOUSSAINT
VARIOUS ARTISTS
VARIOUS ARTISTS
WATCHA CLAN
WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY SOUNDTRACK
WOMEXIMIZER
WOMEXIMIZER
ZDOB SI ZDUB
ZIETI
Choban Elektrik, Choban Elektrik (Self-Release)
Channeling Zappa in Tirana: Edgy Rock Virtuosity Meets East Balkan Brilliance on Choban Elektrik

If a prog rock power trio had ever sprung up in the mountains of Albania, it would have sounded like Brooklyn’s Choban Elektrik (“Electric Shepherds”). They use the vintage grit and funk of the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes, along with drumset and electric bass to open up new facets of Albanian, Macedonian, Greek, and Armenian traditional songs. The band adds this classic American soulful sound to the music of the Balkans in a far reaching open jazz rock approach that combines influences from across the spectrum of world music.

“We never set out to do this, but it flowed naturally from our other musicial influences,” explains masterful keyboard player and arranger Jordan Shapiro. “I’d bring in songs I learned in Balkan singing class or at the Balkan music camps, and we’d play them, just like anything else we’d tackle as a trio, as if they were jazz, funk, or rock.”

The results burst with crackling distorted guitar lines ripping through odd Albanian meters (“Beratche from Prespa”), traditional Greek dance tunes gone deeply funky (“Koftos”), and mysteriously dreamy space-outs for Caucasus wedding parties (the wonderfully titled “Mom Bar”). Slow-burning melodies unwind as whammy bars and Leslie speakers take old songs in a radically new and powerful direction.

Choban Elektric will celebrate the release of the new CD at the Rock Shop on May 16, 2012, joined by Which Way East (featuring violinist Jesse Kotansky and singer Eva Salina Primack from the Choban CD) and Raya Brass Band (featuring Don Godwin, engineer of Choban CD).

{full story below}

“I had no exposure to world music my entire upbringing,” says Shapiro, who trained intensively as a classical pianist and oboe player. “My parents loved classical music and Broadway shows. This was the last thing I’d ever have imagined doing.”

Conservatory trained in piano and guitar performance and jazz studies, Shapiro arrived in New York and soon found himself working hard; like many multi-instrumentalist pros, Shapiro spent a decade performing in a diverse array of bands, as core member and as sideman. He started a progressive bluegrass band, Astrograss. He joined a Zappa tribute ensemble (which included original members of Zappa’s band), Project/Object, where he met Choban’s bassist, Dave Johnsen.

Like the rock maverick, Shapiro was always hungry for new musical challenges. He got wind of the Balkan scene, as many of his friends had gotten into playing music from Eastern Europe. After hearing some music at a party, he headed to the Golden Festival, New York’s annual gathering of Balkan fans and top performers. “It inspired me to get an accordion,” Shapiro recalls. “Lugging around vintage keyboards is not nearly as much fun.”

It was the unexpected beginning of a new, powerful passion. A year later, Shapiro found himself in a circle of twenty accordionists of all levels, staring amazed at the quicksilver technique and fluid ornamentation of Albanian accordionist Raif Hyseni (composer of “Steve’s Gajda”). He was hooked.

“Raif teaches by ear. He started playing a tune, this beautiful Albanian folk song,” remembers Shapiro. “That was a new thing for me, to be right in front of someone playing this complicated melody. I hadn’t done that kind of music by ear at that point.”

But beyond Hyseni’s stunning chops and easy grace, he opened Shapiro’s eyes to the East European approach to improvisation. Hyseni emphasized that soloists had room to express and expand on the theme. He pushed Shapiro to find his own, Balkan voice when playing. Over a year of subsequent lessons, Shapiro picked up not only Hyseni’s trove of melodies; he also explored the possibilities—both traditional and radical—suggested by the repertoire.

Though he first perfected tunes like “Valle e Shqipërisë së Mesme” on the accordion, Shapiro soon tried things out on his collection of vintage organs and keyboards. During frequent sessions, Shapiro worked closely with Johnsen (bass) and multifaceted percussionist Phil Kester (who plays everything from drums to riq to marimba). The trio discovered that songs meant for very different instruments and different contexts fit perfectly into their wide-ranging world of post-rock complexity and improvisatory pleasures.

With all the drive of a power trio, they dove into the odd meters and nimble melodic lines with precision and grace and explode on the solo sections with raw intensity and collective exploration.. Johnsen brought his flexibility and formitable bass skills to make sense out of the complex forms, while Kester drew on his early childhood fascination with the Freek music in his community, musicially combining hand percussion and marimba to create an exotic soundscape to balance the power drumming of his jazz and rock influences.

Bending and blending genres is a major part of recent developments in Balkan roots music back in Europe, as well, like the jazz-inflected traditional arrangements of Bulgarian accordion master Petar Ralchev that inspired Choban’s grooving “Kopanitsa.” They opened up jams that fully showcase the keys’ timbre and that segue gorgeously into stirring songs like “Çobankat” (where Kotansky’s sweeping violin and Primack’s rich vocals form the perfect counterpoint to Shapiro’s psychedelic solos).

“The album starts off with a thirty-second exploration, an improvisation,” muses Shapiro. “It shows off the Fender Rhodes. But then it shifts into a different key and the traditional melody Raif taught me. That transition really reflects our approach beautifully.”

<< release: 05/16/12 >>
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