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Shum Davar
Folklore Fusions

artist release
Review by Andrew Cronshaw

There has been some sniffiness among purveyors of… call it what you will, but ‘world music’… about the ‘fusion’ word. Indeed its use can sometimes warn of music that, though often skillfully played, might turn out to have a rootless superficiality. So, on the face of it, not a promising title. But, at least for the ‘folklore’ part, in today’s stream of recorded music in all its formats perhaps there’s some sense in giving the prospective listener, to an album by a performer or band they’ve probably never heard of, some titular clue as to what sort of thing they’ll hear. And of course we reviewers try to help with that.

Shum Davar, based in Prague, is a band whose members have Belorussian, Georgian, Czech and Slovak backgrounds, playing music drawing mainly on klezmer, Roma and Balkan traditions. Fusion, folklore or whatever, they have excellent material, both traditional and new-made, and they do it with such fire and originality that one’s immediately engaged in the album’s well put together flow.

The line-up is Belarusian Aliaksandr Yasinski on bayan (button chromatic accordion), Gugar Manukyan on piano-accordion, violinist Juraj Steieranka, guitarist Daniel Kundrák, double bassist Pavel Bartoš, drummer Marcel Kóňa, augmented on some tracks by singers Iva Marešová and Anežka Altmanová and violinist Adam Černik.

Listen "Spell" (excerpt)

The opener, Yasinski’s "Spell," has a Balkan slither, with accordion and Gypsy-jazzy fiddle solo breaks. "Belopolka" begins as scampering klezmer, building through ecstatic fiddle and a wild accordions work-out into a rippling drum solo and back into jubilant klezmer.

Listen "Bílá" (excerpt)

"Bílá" is an elegant klezmer-style waltz-time song, sung by Marešová (who is a notable singer in her own right, and also leads, with Yasinski, the band Razam, which has a new album released at the same time as this one).

Listen "Jovano" (excerpt)

She and Altmanová sing together, in true fiery Roma style, the well-known Macedonian song "Jovano" (also known as "Jovano Jovanke"). It’s a stand-out rendition of a great song, a magnificent nearly nine-minute epic version that has inter-vocal breaks of a Kroke-like chugging calmness, with soaring violin, and accordion ranging into the deepest growling bass, before bursting back into the passionate vocals.

Listen "Cygane Lyubyat Pesni" (excerpt)

Dazzling fiddle opens another Roma song, the fast wild "Cygane Lyubyat Pesni," and it’s followed by Serbia’s famous "Ajde Jano," so much recorded already that it could be a risky choice, but, backed by rolling tom-tom patterns, they do it with a triumphant muscularity. More Gypsy-jazz, with touches of wah-wah, in "Surp Sarkis," and the album ends with the lyrical "Tariner," featuring accordion and limpid violin.

Fusion, schmuzion – it’s fine, heart-lifting music.

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