Balkan Brass Battle – Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra & Fanfare Ciocarlia (Asphalt Tango/Planet Company)


In brass as in life is all about speed. It’s an ego thing. Balkan brass bands want to amaze and exhaust you with their frenetic dexterity. Then they want to tear your face off. It’s a three-pronged attack. Loud. Fast. Heavy. It will come as no surprise then that it’s all about testosterone. It’s a pickle party. There’s not a woman in sight.
Fanfare Ciocarlia are a bunch of rural middle aged Romanian’s from a village that doesn’t even boast a train station. Squaring off against them are stars of Emir Kusturica soundtracks Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra from Serbia.

Make no mistake this is a Balkan Brass sound clash, each orchestra intent on crushing their opposition. It’s hysterical, almost ludicrously fast music, think cartoon soundtracks mixed with a New Orleans brass band. Fanfare Ciocarlia’s bottom end is legendary, the tuba is without peer, yet Marko Markovic’s trumpet solos are so fast they’re threatening to burn up on re entry. It’s hard to choose. But sifting through the evidence is joyous. Both bands lay it on the line with their covers of Duke Ellington’s Caravan lined up back to back. This should make it easier, but both orchestras play fast and loose with their arrangements, in fact they barely resemble the same tune. Boban Markovic does draw links to the exotic jazz of the original but Fanfare Ciocarlia just chew it up, and spit it out like one of their own bastard children. It almost feels like it’s their composition they’re so cocky.

Both orchestras team up for Fanfare Ciocarlia’s the James Bond Theme, and it’s the best moment on the disc, demonstrating the power of a 25-piece brass band when pointed in the right direction. The remainder of the disc is a frantic blur of brass as each ensemble lay claim to being the best. The playing is phenomenal, the energy infectious and by the end of it you don’t care who wins, you’re just happy they’ve played the game.

Bob Baker Fish


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.