Shukar Collective - Urban Gypsy
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Shukar Collective
Urban Gypsy
Riverboat Records (www.worldmusic.net)

The title of this disc may conjure up thoughts of something it isn't. It's urban for sure - programmed beats, heavily processed vocals, plenty of mechanized bleeps and buzzes, etc. The Gypsy aspect of it is more elusive, though. The three guys who originally comprised the Romanian group Shukar (before the "collective" aspect of it came about) specialize in a raw, Mongol/Tatar- influenced music called ursari that was once used to accompany dancing bears that had been de-clawed and de-toothed (though Shukar themselves never embraced the practice). Ursari, according to the CD liner notes, consists of men shout-singing to the accompaniment of rustic percussion including spoons, wooden barrels and the Arabic darbuka drum. A pair of adventurous souls named Lucian Stan and and Dan Handrabur got the idea of taking the ursari style and melding it with contemporary beat technology, and Shukar Collective was born. The results? Disappointing, I'm afraid. Processed beats dominate, little of those supposedly characteristic percussions can be heard, the songs feel aimless and otherwise wonderfully eccentric vocals are excessively toyed with so as to lose much of their organic charm. Still it's not a complete washout. "The Wind" is a charmer built around a standup bass line, "Gipsy Blooz" moves nicely with a dub reggae feel and occasional traces of instruments like cimbalom and violin hint at how good this could have been if the participants bent on relentless modernization had been reined in to some degree. I have absolutely nothing against blending traditional music with cutting edge techno so long as the end result achieves a best-of-both-worlds balance. There is no such balance here, so I'd advise all but the most hardcore techno freaks to steer clear of this one. -Tom Orr

CD from cdroots


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