TARAF DE HAIDOUKS
In the late 80s, Belgian producers Stefan Karo and Michel Winter were so inspired by field recordings of Romanian Gypsy music released by the superb French folkloric label Ocora that they set off for the small village of Clejani to find the musicians. Like American blues enthusiasts John Fahey and Dick Spottswood, who went looking for lost southern bluesmen like Skip James in the early 60s, Karo and Winter managed not only to track the musicians down but to bring their music to a wider audience through tours and recordings. (Their story was fictionalized in the film Gadjo dilo by Tony Gatlif, who also included the Roms' music in Latcho drom.) The difference, of course, was that the bluesmen were once-well-known recording artists who had faded from memory, while the Romanians were completely unknown outside their village, where they performed mostly at weddings and other celebrations. Superb folk groups from the same region--Muzsikas, the Okros Ensemble--perform Hungarian and Romanian Gypsy music, but they're essentially revivalists in matching costumes. Taraf de Haidouks ("Band of Brigands"), a motley group who'd never played together until Karo and Winter organized them, are the real deal. They wear street clothes, and they don't dumb their music down for unfamiliar audiences. Their producers have helped them develop a wider repertoire--the group's eponymous U.S. debut on Nonesuch Records is a compilation of material originally issued on three albums from the Crammed Discs label--but haven't cooled their fire: Taraf de Haidouks play like daredevils, sometimes taking pieces at breakneck speed and occasionally employing a kind of vulgar virtuosity, as when Ion Manole drags the bow across his violin's bridge like he's pulling a mound of jagged steel across granite. This is folk music as punk rock. Nine of the group's 12 core members--who range in age from 20 to 78--are participating in the rigorous monthlong U.S. tour, which brings them to Chicago for the first time. The first of these two shows is sold-out. Sunday, March 25, 7 and 9 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Youri Lenquette.