Östblocket - Yes, we are a swedish balkan band...
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Yes We Are A Swedish Balkan Band, You Don't Have To Look Twice!
(self-released by the artists, Sweden)

Everybody's doing it, from New York's Zlatne Uste to Japanese jazz artists.... so who not the Swedes. Östblocket joins their fellow Swedes The Cerro Esperanza Band and Tummel in exploring the joys of Balkan rhythms and brass, and succeed rather brilliantly. Far more focused on authenticity than the Esperanza crew (although they venture into some unexpected moments here and there!) , Ostblocket offer a rollicking, hard edge brass-band sound that can compete with some of the great bands who live on the original turf.

Bil ar Sur

The musicians:
Vocals: Sofia Berg-Böhm
Trumpet: Mathias Gunnarsson
Trumpet: Anders Wallseth
Euphonium: Erik Axelsson
Trombone/tenorhorn: Fredrik Månsson
Tuba: Klas Ottosson
Saxophone: Sven Andersson
Accordion: Johan Ohlsson
Violin: Filip Runesson
Percussion: Daniel Persson
Drums/percussion: Patrik Trankéll

It's taken a while, but now the voluptuous attractions of the odd-numbered time signatures and improvising possibilities of Balkan and other East European music (and also the similarly liberating, and to some extent related, delights of Middle Eastern music), and the high, exciting skill involved, are proving as enticing to many musicians outside those regions as the syncopation and freedom of jazz did for their parents and grandparents' generations. The music that is emerging sometimes sticks close to its traditional sources, but more often incorporates them with the musicians' own musical perceptions to spark tangents and departures, a genetic shuffling and re-energising that seems to be evolving a wave of strong new music in Europe and beyond. And the excitement about these exotic musics involves an admiration and seeking-out of music and musicians, and can undoubtedly help break down and humanise perceptions of the rich variety of people arriving in western Europe from the east.

Despite their album's lumpily explicit title, eleven-piece Östblocket's music isn't Balkan clonery but a distinctive new mix with a strong influence of the forms, language and oompah bounce of klezmer, even in the Rom and original material. Carving its own path with confidence and style, it's snappy and excellently played, a powerful, well-recorded and varied sound from a five-piece brass section, sax, accordeon, percussion and drums, with violinist and composer of much of the material Filip Runesson doubling on oud, santur and mandola. No string bass; in the style of Serbian and Macedonian brass bands the bottom end is handled by tuba and euphonium. About half the tracks are songs, featuring vocals by Sofia Berg-Böhm in Yiddish and other languages that are as impressive as is the band itself. Swedish rapper Timbuktu guests effectively, as do Bulgarian accordeonist Plamen Dimitrov and a Swedish choir. Smart stuff, and in an ingeniously designed package. - Andrew Cronshaw, fRoots

Press from the band:
Östblocket has been performing all over Sweden since 1996 and started to play mainly brass-band music from the balkans. Since then the band has developed a style of thier own. Traditional styles from the balkans are blended with the band's own pieces inspired by gypsy, oriental, rumanian, klezmer and bulgarian music. Often with lyrics in Swedish. It's music for dance and enjoyment and, above all, its music that brings instantaneous happiness to the listener.

The band has its base in Malmö in the south of Sweden and are composed by musicians of various traditions and styles.

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