Why you should care
Because the No.1 brass band for BalkanSoul GypsyFunk should be No. 1 on your playlist.
In the back room of a tiny bar where the windows fog over when the crowd heats up, just around the corner from an F train stop in the heart of Brooklyn, Slavic Soul Party holds court until the wee hours as Tuesday rolls into Wednesday.
Reworked Macedonian folk songs may not seem like party music for the hipster set, much less a weeknight soundtrack, but sprinkle in a little Bayou, a little booze and a lot of horns, and we dare your dancing feet to stay still.
The band bills itself as “NYC’s official #1 brass band for BalkanSoul GypsyFunk.” We’re not sure who else shares that same description (is there really a number 2?) but if there is, we can’t imagine anyone else doing it more creatively. There’s a little jazz in their noise, a little Latin, a little accordion – it’s a mashup that’s been working since before “mashup” was a thing.
The horns may harken back to the region’s military musical influences, but also some Latin touches. And then there’s the jazz riffs.
More well-known players on the Gypsy-punk-rock-Balkan spectrum, Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box, have cited their sound (and occasionally used their players). You don’t have to be in Brooklyn to catch a show – they frequent Europe often (lots of trips to – you guessed it – the Balkans, but they also hit a few Northern European spots this spring).
The music pulls influences from Serbia, Macedonia and surrounding areas, often typified by time signatures that vary widely from more pop-ish sounds – frenetic almost – challenging feet to try to keep still, making the latest Katy Perry dance anthem look like a slow-moving sleeper. The horns might harken back to the region’s military musical influences, but also some Latin touches. And then there’s the jazz riffs they toss in, and the improvisational nature of their Tuesday night alcohol-fueled jams.
The band also does good works. They’re part of a Carnegie Hall project that brings musicians into the community. They’ve played and worked with inmates in Rikers Island and Sing Sing prisons in New York City, as well as at the Horizons Juvenile Detention Center, where last year they spent a month working with kids to write and perform – see the video below.
Video cameras struggle in the darkness of a small bar’s back room, especially one so crowded with musicians, drums, brass, accordions and audience – there are seats, but we’re talking a space not much larger than an apartment living room. So it’s hard to capture the Tuesday night flavor.
But this performance of one of their most popular songs, “Jackson,” posted last year, gives a sense of the kinetic crowd energy around the horns.