Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Moldovan turbo folk bonkersness

There are those who claim that the root of rock'n'roll lay in the African songs and spirituals sung mournfully every day in the fields and on the ships to keep the spirits up. And while this may be true to some extent, another equally important musical root is frequently overlooked when it comes to chronicling the history of contemporary Western sounds - one that rises from the mountains and villages of central  and South Eastern Europe - and that music is polka.

It's not fashionable to say it, but the simple boom-chit two-beat beloved of accordian-handed folkies and riotous Balkan weddings is surely every bit as much to blame for punk rock as any amount of delta blues. The speed, rhythm and pure bonkersness of the genre is infused through contemporary pop, but it's those out East who still do it the best, and Moldova's Doinita Gherman is about as bonkers as it comes.

Hailing from the capital Chisinau, she started life as a more traditional ethno-pop act before she saw the light and began to pile on the rock, while still staying true to her folky roots. The result is a 150mph punky stomp, that sees her breathlessly below out the words while jumping about like someone desperately trying to put out a carpet fire.

You think I'm exaggerating? The video for her song Batuta sees her dancing up trees, on motorway central reservations, footbridges and anywhere her feet will take her. One gets the feeling that this girl never stops, and gawd bless her for it!

But she hasn't forgotten the old days, and still dresses in a stylised and somewhat raunchy version of the traditional Moldovan farmgirl dress, and crowbars traditional rhythms and dances into the high speed insanity. Whether we'll ever get to see or hear the girl on these shoresis unclear, and indeed unlikely. She is perhaps a little too obscure, and indeed hardcore for even the keenest world music enthusiast, but she's all over the internet, so make a point of trying to track her down - it's what the world wide web is for, after all!

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Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The purest rock'n'roll from Gothenburg

It's often the case that the biggest innovators, or even just the smartest, purest bands in their fields tend to get criminally overlooked. In some ways that's a good thing for we connoisseurs of the rock'n'roll, as we get to keep it sharp and unsullied by the taint of stardom. But on the other hand I'm quite sure that the bands themselves would like to be able to pay the rent without having to resort to a dreary day job.

But for all those briefly hip acts who forge a couple of quick hits before being consigned to the dustbin of uncoolness, there are a dozen who even crash and burn before they raise a murmor. And then there's those who plough on regardless, turning out disc after disc of fabulous stuff. Gothenburg's Sillverbullit are just that kind of band.

Formed in 1995, they were originally called Sillverbullet, until someone who already had a similar name went and had a moan. Indeed, they're known as Citizen Bird in America to cut down on potential lawsuits. But whatever name they happen to go by on any given day, they've consistently been chucking out three great albums and touring furiously, but to little commercial success - although they did manage to bag a gong for the best Swedish album of 2004 with their Arclight CD.

Unusually they've stuck with the same line-up right through their career, bound together by their howling dervish of a lead singer Simon Ohlsson. So fractious and unhinged can he get that he was once thrown out of a venue by security while the rest of the band played on.

But what do they sound like? A fantastically atmospheric high octane, ambient rock and roll onslaught, yet still capable of some devistatingly tender moments. Every song sounding like an extended intro, they hurl out the chunkiest riffs like they were playing the last song on Earth, sounding a little like the sixties would have if punk had happened in 1959. Or like Joy Division borrowed Can's metronome and upped sticks to Scandinavia. Swirling clouds of organ lap around the guitars like a filthy cloud of lust, while Ohlsson slurs out poems to human politics, smiting all the numbskulls and thoughtless haters as he goes.

They don't get out that often these days, but when they do it's incendiary. So if you spot the name when you trawl the listings make sure you get out and see them. Fellow Swedes like The Hives, The Hellacopters and Backyard Babies may have stolen some of their commercial thunder, but this Silverbullit can duke it out with the best of them, and would win a live play off hands down.

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Ukraine's Housewife Superstar

For those among you who enjoy a quick flutter I'd advise a tasty yet unlikely ante-post bet. The race isn't on until the second week in May, but if you get your money on early you may be on for some tasty returns. Oh yes pop fans, bet all you can afford on a Ukrainian win, because Verka Serdushka is having a go at Eurovision again.

You may remember her previous attempt back in Helsinki in 2007. A vision in silver, the song Dancing Lasha Tumbai came in a close second to Serbia's Harry Potter-alike balladeer Marija Šerifović. She may not have won, but the following Monday the watercoolers of Europe were alive nothing but talk of this bonkers tin-foil clad trannie with a big star on her head, like some turbofolk Edna Everage from space. And like her antipodean cousin she's become an enormous star in her home country and  its associated empire.

The story goes back some 20 years when a teenaged performer called Andriy Danylko created the character of a larger-than-life middle aged railway ticket inspector from the sticks for a local comedy talent contest. His creation became an instant hit, and it wasn't long before Danylko had created a host of other characters and took the whole lot out on tour around the former Soviet republics, creating a massive stir.

Along the way he has put together nine albums of high octane East European oompah disco, plus the occasional collection of more laid back ambient tunes under his own name, but somewhere along the line it became clear that Eurovision was the logical international conclusion for his character's insanely bouncing storyline. It was feared that the character may be too much of a Ukrainian in joke, but those who didn't necessarily get the gag still enjoyed three manic minutes that turned the living rooms of Europe into a carnival of insane thrashing about.

But it nearly never happened. Questions were asked in the Ukranian parliament as to whether such a "grotesque and vulgar" artist should represent the country on an international stage. And their old grumpy uncles across the border were convinced the words 'Lasha Tumbai' - reputedly Mongolian for 'Whipped Cream' were actually the thinly veilled political dig 'Russia Goodbye'. Danylko claimed otherwise, but it was still enough to cause such a stir across that half of the continent that the song was already a massive international hit before that performance in the Finnish capital.

And now she's having another pop. She's only one of the 25 approved finalists as this point, but if the good people north of the Black Sea are still in on the joke and the ironics Eurovision fans of the West are out in force come May 15th, we could well be all back in Kiev come the spring of 2012 - and that would hardly be a bad thing, would it!

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.