Friday, September 11, 2009

CD cover

Boris Kovac and The LaDaABa Orchest
The Last Balkan Tango

September 14, 2001:

What do you say about music or art at these times? Strangely, just a few weeks ago, this recording came in and sat on my desk, awaiting my response. Last week I found myself listening to the mournful, almost plodding opening track, a sound both tearful and weirdly hopeful. These eight minutes of dark despair suddenly burst like a bubble, followed by a frenzied, thirty seconds of dancing, and then with a "Hey!" it's done. The Last Balkan Tango is a soundtrack for the decadence of one world cast against the furor of another; life vs. reality.

Yugoslavian minstrels Boris Kovac and The LaDaABa Orchest, residents of Novi Sad, celebrate life in the ruins, both concrete and psychic. For twelve more searing, lovely, bitter and explosive instrumental tracks, Kovac and company explore the folk roots of tragedy and the complex, modern composition of excess. They ask a simple, fathomless question: "Just imagine there is only one starry night left 'til the end of this world... what would we do?" and then proceed to answer it with the confusion that is this new century. God? Decadence? Hope? Despair? Wait for the random moment to choose for you? Be with those you love or just do a tango with whoever passes by? "Let god come with you, if he's up to it?" These songs pose the questions, ignore the obvious answers, and cut like a knife through the rubble of rhetoric without muttering the words.

That saxophonist Kovac and his orchestra of accordion, bass, percussion, reeds and guitar have spoken to their own situation is a marvel. That it translates so well and so unexpectedly to our own is scary and yet ultimately promising. They drag their exhausted partner across the marble floor. They kick up the dust in an unpaved street. They revel with the revelers at a wedding and mourn the interment of morning. In the final movement of The Last Balkan Tango, they board "The Orient Express" for a tour of the past and the future; a ride through the defiant dances of the Balkans, a tango in the midst of the fall of the old Europe, on a journey to "a better world," possibly this one, probably not. Kovac proves that we humans, in all of our utter oblivion, still manage to move the cosmos with our music, still find hope in our inner spirits, and seek a way out of the morass that might allow everyone else to come with us. He welcomes us into the new millennium, a time that might require us to be fatalistic, but might not have to be fatal. - Cliff Furnald

The CD is available at cdRoots

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lura's "Eclipse" is an intimate vision of Cape Verde

Four Quarters Entertainment (

I saw Lura onstage for the first time when she was touring in support of her second album M'bem di Flora. My concert-going companion and I agreed that Lura's live performance had a magic that her studio recordings, good though they were, lacked. To me it was the almost entirely acoustic sound of her ensemble that accounted for the warmth, along with the fact of having the barefoot, utterly entrancing Lura there in person.

Eclipse, the Portuguese-born Cape Verdean singer's latest, comes closest to capturing the intimacy she radiates live as well as being her most accomplished and varied work to date. For every track that treads the melancholic landscape that Cesaria Evora made famous (the title piece and "Terra'L" among them) there's a surprise like the distinct Arabic feel to the opening "Libramor." Shades of Angola and Mozambique cover "Maria," "Na Nha Rubera" sounds like equal parts Cape Verde and Cape Town and the galloping beat of "Tabanka" shows that Lura can sing just as ably against backgrounds not particularly lush. Actually she's in great voice throughout, her tones not merely charming but ever more confident as she makes her way through material that goes further beyond Cape Verde than she's yet gone. Where Lura's first two albums hinted at the arrival of a major new star in Cape Verdean music, Eclipse is that arrival. - Tom Orr

The artist's web site includes a nice selection of full tracks from the CD

CD available from Amazon