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Ghetto Blasters

Mahala Raï Banda

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Album Review

Mahala Rai Banda might be drawn from the same geographical well as Taraf de Haidouks and Fanfare Ciocãrlia in Romania, but their sound is less rooted in the village tradition, as a song title like "Balkan Reggae" (which actually isn't especially reggae-ish) gives away. They can play Balkan Gypsy music as well as any of their contemporaries, with a strong emphasis on brass, but they do look outside that, as on "Balada," which is deliciously soulful, or "Ding Deng Dong," a lovely slice of Balkan pop, powered along by infectious female vocals, or "Na Janes," where singer Florentina Sandu marries Balkan music with Middle Eastern pop before the song heads to the stratosphere on a blinding sax solo. The arrangements are superbly tight and demanding, but done so well that they sound easy. It's all sheer virtuosity, at times pure madness ("Kolo Baro"), but throughout it's an aural feast for the ears and the feet.

Ghetto Blasters, Mahala Raï Banda
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