Yes we are a Swedish Balkan band, you don't have to look twice!
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Yes we are a Swedish Balkan band, you don't have to look twice!
Artist release

cd cover You can't go wrong with Östblocket. They spell out everything nicely for you, right from the title. Yes folks, it's true. Each one of the Östblocket crew appears to be 100% pure Swedish stock, no eastern miscegenation here.

Put this record on, however and the East rushes towards you, like a Balkan Brass Band on steroids and acid. Steroids because these guys surely know how to play and acid because Swedish was not one of the official languages of the former Yugoslavia.

The band has written most of the tracks on the record but I just feel the urge to play them to a panel of Balkan traditional music experts and see if they are fooled. In addition to their own material, some klezmer and Roma favorites appear. What is equally fascinating is that about five different members of the band write the group's songs; this is certainly not a vehicle for someone's upcoming solo project, but a truly collective effort.

This is a self-produced record of great love and care, right from the cover (with its elaborate cutout design which must have cost a fortune) and the kitschy Eastern European, Communist-chic graphic design to the zest of the performances. Two trumpets, a euphonium, a trombone, a tuba, a saxophone, an accordion, a violin, drums and vocals are the elements of this elaborate musical feast. Worthy of special note are Sofia Berg-Böhm's vocals and the guests on the record who all add to the mix: Plamen Dimitrov's accordion playing, Timbuktu's sympathetic rap and the presence of the L.A.K. choir.

My initial feeling about projects like this one is to oppose it in principle, as the appropriation of another tradition can be cultural imperialism at it's worst. This is not the case with the wonderful Östblocket. Each player gives it his or her best and you know that this is not a case of trying to find a culture cooler than their own. Instead they seem like a group of people who just love this music to its core. No mishaps, no hiccups, no missteps; Östblocket play the music perfectly and they have the right attitude, and the right feeling for the music, the culture, the craziness of "The Balkan Experience"(r). And on top of that, this is truly feel good, stomp footing, dance-inducing, heart-warming, party music.

Östblocket have achieved the unachievable: they have become a "Swedish Balkan Band." Maybe its time to start working on the proposal to establish Swedish as one of the official languages in one of the Balkan countries? After all, mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. - Nondas Kitsos

The artists' web site: www.ostblocket.se

CD available from cdRoots

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