Slavic Soul Party is a New York brass band that takes inspiration from Balkan and gypsy music, but also funk and New Orleans traditions. Its members play with punk-rock energy and have won fans all across the country. Their fifth album, Taketron, is just out, and it's a brass-band fusion tour de force.
Anytime musicians study traditions deeply and then free themselves to follow their own whims, it's a beautiful thing. But when it comes to the brass-band fusion of Slavic Soul Party, that's just the beginning. With razor-sharp precision, juggernaut force and a healthy dose of playfulness, these guys start out in overdrive and never let up.
A Creole Music
A decade ago, percussionist Matt Moran was playing with traditional Greek and Macedonian groups. But they quickly squelched his instinct to throw in funky backbeats, so he started his own band. Today, Slavic Soul Party is part of an experimental Balkan music movement that's right at home in eclectic, polyglot New York. This is a world where the throb of Serbian brass and the pump of Motown are happy bedfellows.
Of the nine players in Slavic Soul Party, only one has a real background in traditional Slavic music. That's Peter Stan, a third-generation Romanian accordionist. When Stan takes a solo with this band, his roots show, but so does his delight in breaking with orthodoxy.
Balkan music has a reputation for being frenetic and complicated, but Moran doesn't buy that. It is dance music, after all, and even when Slavic Soul Party opens for indie-rock bands like Arcade Fire and Dresden Dolls, kids with no clue about Balkan traditions dance their tails off. Moran says they're happy to escape what he calls "the school uniform of electric guitar and the corporate hegemony of programmed beats." Slavic Soul Party offers a gut punch to preconceptions about traditional music, world music, pop music, dance music. But I tell you, this is one gut punch you'll enjoy.
Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org.