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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

Of Lovers, Gam­blers and Parachute Skirts Taraf de Haidouks Crammed/Planet

Be­ly­ing their back­ground, a band of he­do­nis­tic Roma vil­lage mu­si­cians from the Ro­ma­nian coun­try­side, cham­pi­oned by the un­likely com­bi­na­tion of a buc­ca­neer­ing ac­tor, Bel­gian record pro­mot­ers and a scen­esteal­ing cameo in a mu­sic doco ( Latcho Drom), have es­tab­lished them­selves not only as the undis­puted gypsy kings of east­ern Europe but also as one of the world’s great mu­si­cal acts. Taraf de Haidouks’s ap­peal has been per­fectly summed up by Johnny Depp: “They’re au­then­tic mu­si­cians mak­ing au­then­tic mu­sic … they have the gift to make you feel alive.” Of Lovers, Gam­blers And Parachute Skirts epit­o­mises the ir­re­sistible joie de vivre and un­in­hib­ited vir­tu­os­ity of an en­sem­ble born in the dy­ing days of the Ceaus­escu dic­ta­tor­ship. Haidouks’s 25th an­niver­sary al­bum, in which they re­visit their roots fol­low­ing the death of three foundation singers, bears out the au­then­tic­ity Depp men­tions. Emo­tive Wal­lachian bal­lads and gypsy love songs are in­ter­spersed with fre­netic tra­di­tional dance med­leys and Turk­ish-tinted in­stru­men­tals in a land­mark re­lease that re­unites the band with a hand­ful of former col­lab­o­ra­tors and their prog­eny. The diva Vior­ica Ru­dar­easa lends her dis­tinc­tive chops to four pieces, in­clud­ing the open­ing cut and the sassy ti­tle track. A son of one of Haidouks’s de­parted greats sings an an­tique bal­lad in which one of the band’s four core fid­dle play­ers gen­u­flects to an­other revered Taraf fig­ure, a vi­o­lin­ist who pi­o­neered a style of play­ing that in­volves pulling a horse­hair rather than a bow across the lower string, to pro­duce a gut­tural and oth­er­worldly sound. Fa­mil­ial con­ti­nu­ity is fur­ther em­pha­sised by the fact that the fid­dle in­no­va­tor’s son sings lead on an­other heart­break­ing bal­lad in a style that’s eerily rem­i­nis­cent of his fa­ther. If the slower num­bers draw out the best from the band’s past and present vo­cal­ists, the in­stru­men­tal­ists ex­cel with their col­lec­tive feet flat to the floor. What­ever the tempo, Taraf de Haidouks play with the pre­ci­sion of top-flight clas­si­cal mu­si­cians blended with the un­bri­dled pas­sion and ca­sual panache for which Balkan gyp­sies are renowned. While the res­i­dent flautist and clar­inetist (the former play­ing a six-hole reed flute that sounds like a Celtic whis­tle) spit out flur­ries of high-reg­is­ter notes at a scarcely cred­i­ble rate of knots, the band’s high-ve­loc­ity vi­o­lin play­ers — in­di­vid­u­ally, in uni­son or in har­mony — soar like ea­gles and swoop like seag­ulls. As­sist­ing the com­bined fid­dles to cre­ate a ver­i­ta­ble rhyth­mic whirl­wind are a pair of hard-driven ac­cor­dions, a fu­ri­ously ham­mered cym­balum (dul­cimer) and florid dou­ble bass walk­ing lines. In­deed, there’s a ver­i­ta­ble cor­nu­copia of sound to cap­ti­vate the senses in Taraf de Haidouks’s mul­ti­lay­ered gypsy folk and jazz ar­range­ments and com­plex har­monic struc­tures. Of Lovers, Gam­blers And Parachute Skirts ranks as the world mu­sic roller-coaster ride of the year.

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