Taraf de Haidouks, Dumbala Dumba

Peter Margasak

By Peter Margasak

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Organized early '90s by a pair of Belgians who fell in love with their music, Taraf de Haidouks (Band of Brigands) are a dozen-strong crew of Gypsy musicians — with a 60-year age range — from the remote Romanian village of Clejani. They soon became stars on the European world music circuit and appeared in Tony Gatliff's acclaimed 1993 documentary Latcho Drom.

The various members usually played in shifting configurations for public gatherings — baptisms, weddings, harvests and funerals — drawing upon an ever-expanding, ever-morphing repertoire that ravenously incorporated folk music from Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia, traditional Gypsy songs and even some contemporary pop hits, all adapted to instrumentation of violins, accordions, bass and cimbalom (an instrument somewhere between a piano and a harp). Often played at breakneck speed with wild flights of extended technique, such as unholy violin string screeches, the musicians deftly blend deep soul with dazzling facility, and the sounds all drip with raw urgency.

Dumbala Dumba was the group's third album and it was never released in the US, although a handful of its 16 tracks turned up on the group's eponymous collection for Nonesuch Records. Among the highlights are the wild-and-woolly voice-and-percussion jam "Hora ca la Ursari," which sounds like a quicksilver Gypsy hip-hop joint, and "Terno Chelipe," a violin showcase that's akin to a high-octane bluegrass breakdown.