Legendary Romany Reedist Ferus Mustafov Makes a Rare Visit | Bleader

Legendary Romany Reedist Ferus Mustafov Makes a Rare Visit

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Ferus Mustafov
  • Ferus Mustafov
Romany music from eastern Europe remains popular in the U.S., with regular tours from the likes of Boban Markovic, Mahala Rai Banda (who made their Chicago debut in September at the World Music Festival), and Esma Redzepova. And there's a whole lot more we usually don't have access to. Macedonian reedist Ferus Mustafov has been one of the best-loved and most influential musicians in the Balkans for more than two decades, but aside from releasing the terrific 1995 album King Ferus (Globestyle) he hasn't gunned for mainstream or world-music audiences in any meaningful way. Though he plays Romany festivals regularly and he certainly turns up on the rosters of the better world-music fests, for the most part he's earned his bread playing at weddings or giving concerts for Macedonian expat communities.

Mustafov makes a couple of rare appearances in the area this weekend, and they're of the latter variety; for both he's performing with Detroit-based Macedonian band Alpina. On Friday night he's at the Sts. Kiril & Metodij Macedonian Orthodox Church in Willowbrook (91st and Route 83/Kingery Road) and on Saturday he's at the Sts. Peter and Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church in Crown Point, Indiana (9660 Broadway); both concerts start at 7 PM.

Mustafov is a flexible clarinetist and saxophonist with a repertoire that combines influences and material from Macedonian, Turkish, and Romany traditions, but he's also fluent in jazz, Greek music, and the slick regional radio staple called turbo-folk. According to Garth Cartwright's colorful profile of Mustafov in his 2005 book Princes Amongst Men (Serpent's Tail), his home in the northeast suburbs of Skopje contains a restaurant plastered with posters of him, a motel, offices, and a recording studio where he's produced hits for himself and others. To be honest, many of his recordings are frustratingly chintzy, with a compressed, trebly sound and cheap keyboards often subbing for real instruments. That's what makes the most recent Mustafov album I know of so great—a live collaboration with the energetic Hungarian folk quintet Söndörgo, it's free of synths and electronically jacked-up rhythms. The band's rhythmic drive is anything but stodgy or tame, and its front line of accordion and clarinet gives Mustafov plenty to chew on—it's a treat to hear his breathless improvisations untainted by schlocky arrangements. I can't say there won't some cheese this weekend, but in the live setting Mustafov's horns should have no problem transcending that.

Today's playlist:

Musica Elettronica Viva, Friday (Alga Marghen)
Alex Cline, Continuation (Cryptogramophone)
Rangda, False Flag (Drag City)
Sondre Bratland and Annbjørg Lien, Alle Vegne (Kirkelig Kulturverksted)
Ty Segall, Melted (Goner)

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