A short journey through psychedelic Balkan folk music

We’ve asked Milan Djuric from Shazalakazoo to compile us a YouTube playlist of lesser-known folk music from the Balkans. As expected, the result is a stunning 10 track collection of sheer musical madness, ranging from Macedonian Gypsy bands, through Albanian tallava, Anatolian psych-rock and some “acute ethanol intoxication” from Serbia. You’ll have to watch all of these to see for yourself.

Rooster eye, photo by Cecil Williams cecilw.com

Shazalakazoo presents: A short journey through psychedelic Balkan folk music

It all began back in 1996 when I accidentally played a cassette owned by my friend`s grandpa. From that point on, nothing was the same for me. A whole new musical world emerged. This is an old Albanian love folk song about Hasan-Aga, the guy known in all region`s folk stories. The lines have characteristic 10 syllables and 21/4 rhythm, which stunned me immediately.

Fifteen years later we`re still exploring that whimsical world of folk music. It has many branches, and one of them is electric tallava music, the most popular among the Balkan Gypsies today. It seems that electronic way of music making is taking the Gypsies back to their Indian roots. Behold the kings of tallava – Cita, Amza and Sevcet. Cita, the most popular Gypsy singer nowadays, sings both male and female verses using an octaver on one microphone.

That Macedonian Gypsy guy, Amza Tairov, he`s a true Hendrix of Casio synthesizer! He never uses his little finger and yet he`s absolutely unbeatable in those looong synth solos. He got very popular in Turkey recently, appearing on Turkish talent show.

One of them, Sevcet, has even invented his own musical style called gio, a mix of tallava with either hip-hop, r’n’b or reggaeton. This made him very popular among the young Gypsy crowds. There`s a whole scene of Romano hip-hop/r’n’b/reggaeton emerging at the moment.

Tallava music comes with the tallava dance. This is how it should look like at its best – Bulgarian tallava stylee.

Tallava, like every well-established genre of music, has its darker side. Fahri, Gashi and Xhevdet are my favs, here jamming over the darkest tallava instrumental I`ve heard so far.

And now let`s leave electronic music for a while. Here`s an example of psychedelic Gypsy session played in one village near Belgrade and rather poorly recorded by a cell phone camera. I can`t describe it, you have to see/hear for yourselves.

But those psycho-folk guys really CAN play. Watch one of them as he improvises the shit out of his guitar at home. Quite unique guitar style, reminding of Django Reinhardt at some point.

Psychedelic folk stuff may be relatively new for our Gypsies, but it`s definitely nothing new to the Turks. Since the 70`s they’ve had a very vibrant psychedelic folk rock scene. Here`s a nice example of it from 1984, Derdiyoklar Ikilisi, playing an old Turkish epic song on his own invention – electric saz, accompanied by a singing drummer.

I would like to finish this little journey through lesser-known Balkan folk styles with Serbian music for acute ethanol intoxication. I just love this double tempo on chorus and the way he sings, you can almost smell his alcohol breath while listening. I have to drink whenever i hear this tune. Cheers!

*Shazalakazoo’s forthcoming album Karton City Boom (Eastblok Music) is out November 4 2011