Words by Garth Cartwright
The Balkan brass ensemble are back with a blast
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fanfare Ciocărlia’s launch, Onwards to Mars! serves up 14 new recordings. There are a couple of feel-good standards here that will entertain crowds (‘Mista Lobaloba’ and a pretty straight take on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’) but it’s the new originals that demand attention here. These include Balkan brass standards the band have known over the years and a selection of original numbers written for the band by British musician Kobi Israelite.
Israelite has obviously listened closely to Fanfare Ciocărla as his seven compositions fit seamlessly into the band’s repertoire and sound like they could have existed in the Balkans since time out of mind: ‘The Patron’s Funeral’ paying homage to the past without slavishly copying it. Want something new? Well, Latin American touring has turned FC into cumbia aficionados – ‘Mista Lobaloba’ and ‘Fiesta de Negritos’ are both good examples that are certain to liven up many a Balkan party.
Twenty years on and with Boban, Taraf and Kočani all having lost their musical mojo, Fanfare Ciocărlia manage to sound as fresh as ever. This Balkan party will surely reach Mars soon.