Slavic Soul Party: Heart and Feet Music Slavic Soul Party mixes the "messed-up" rhythms of the Balkans with gypsy music, funk and jazz for a sound that brings young hipsters and older immigrants together in the same room. Hear an interview with band leader Matt Moran, as well as a studio performance of new songs.
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Slavic Soul Party: Heart and Feet Music

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Slavic Soul Party: Heart and Feet Music

Slavic Soul Party: Heart and Feet Music

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Combine the bottom-heavy brass band music of the Balkans with beer hall accordion virtuosity, borrow some jazz and hip-hop beats, apply them to traditional Slavic songs and some original material and you get Slavic Soul Party - a band that's entertaining crowds in rural Serbia and one raves from hipsters in Brooklyn.

Matt Moran is the leader of Slavic Soul Party. He's brought the nine-member band to NPR Studio 4A in Washington.

Welcome to all of you.

Mr. MATT MORAN (Band Leader, Slavic Soul Party): Thanks a lot. We're happy to be here.

YDSTIE: Welcome, gentlemen.


YDSTIE: You know, I think we should start by giving our listeners a sample of your music, because they're not going to believe it. "Ruchenitsa" is one of the more Eastern European-sounding songs on your new album, the album titled "Teknochek Collision."

Matt, is there anything in particular we should listen for in this piece of music?

Mr. MORAN: Well, to people who are new to Balkan music, this song will have an unusual rhythm, what we call like an uneven or limping rhythm. So what we've done with the song - which is an original song - we're playing on the Bulgarian dance rhythm, the "Ruchenitsa." And we've sort of twisted it a little bit and we call this "Ruchenitsa" because it's bringing in a little bit of different intervals, maybe, that I associate a little bit more with Mexican brass band music like the trumpet-playing of Mexican banda music.

YDSTIE: All right. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of "Ruchenitsa")

YDSTIE: Slavic Soul Party blasting out "Ruchenitsa."

So Matt, how did you convince a bunch of other guys that playing Balkan band music was a great career move?

Mr. MORAN: Well, one of the great untapped…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MORAN: One of the great, sort of, unknown secrets of motivating jazz musicians is dancing girls. This is apparently…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MORAN: …the one thing that all jazz musicians can be convinced to do anything for. And if you look over the, you know, the history of record covers from the '60s on, you can see that the allure of, you know, dancing women as sort of the sila ensheribdus(ph) for many jazz careers.

YDSTIE: Why don't you introduce us to the rest of the band?

Mr. MORAN: All right. We have Peter Stan on accordion.

(Soundbite of accordion playing)

Mr. MORAN: Oscar Noriega on saxophone.

(Soundbite of saxophone playing)

Mr. MORAN: Ben Holmes on trumpet.

(Soundbite of trumpet playing)

Mr. MORAN: John Carlson also on trumpet.

(Soundbite of trumpet playing)

Mr. MORAN: Brian Drye on tenor horn and trombone.

(Soundbite of trombone playing)

Mr. MORAN: And Jacob Garchik also on tenor horn and trombone.

(Soundbite of trombone playing)

Mr. MORAN: Ron Caswell is playing tuba.

(Soundbite of tuba playing)

Mr. MORAN: Brooke Martinez(ph) is playing snare drum.

(Soundbite of snare drum playing)

Mr. MORAN: And I'm Matt Moran.

YDSTIE: And you're the guy in the bass drum.

Mr. MORAN: That's right.

YDSTIE: That big bottom beat. The name of the album is "Teknochek Collision," and there is a story behind that that really gets at the roots of this band.

Mr. MORAN: Right. "Teknochek Collision" came about as the idea of putting together an album that represented all the sort of streams of music and influences colliding in this band. The CD tells a story, a fictional story but not really a fictional story - a story that's every component is true.

The story of Gus Dejan is that he's a - his father was Serbian gypsy; his mother was of mixed ancestry in southern Louisiana. And Gus comes up in New York. Anyone who's making music is going to be aware of the sounds of the street.

YDSTIE: And this band is about the collision of all that stuff.

Mr. MORAN: Yeah, the collision of all that music, the collision of people, the collision of immigrant patterns and neighborhoods.

YDSTIE: Let's hear the title tune, "Teknochek Collision."

(Soundbite of "Teknochek Collision")

YDSTIE: "Teknochek Collision," maybe auto body shop in Queens or maybe just a song by Slavic Soul Party.

One of the American traditions that you feature on the album is the trombone choir. Tell us a little bit about the trombone choir and then we'll hear some of it.

Mr. MORAN: There are a lot of different brass band traditions in the U.S. and North America. And one of the ones that's really fascinating to me is the trombone choirs of the United House of Prayer church. The music that they play for them are sacred music. And they use the trombone because it's most like the human voice. That's my understanding of it.

After the flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, Slavic Soul Party arranged a brass band benefit for people in New Orleans. And, of course, I asked the Madison jubilation band to come participate too. We had many other bands and that was the first time I heard one of the trombone choir bands live and direct. The song that we play, "Never Gonna Let You Go," is taken from that repertoire and we sort of interpret it in our own way. It's a little more ruckus, a little more freewheeling. But music is meant to uplift. And that's for sure. And we try and do it justice in that way.

YDSTIE: And we're going to go out on "Never Gonna Let You Go." Before we do that, though, I just want to thank all of you guys for coming in.

Matt Moran is the founder, composer and arranger for Slavic Soul Party. The group's new CD is "Teknochek Collision." And they are going to take us out with "Never Gonna Let You Go."

Thanks again, guys.

Mr. MORAN: Thank a lot, sir.

We'd like to dedicate this next song, "Never Gonna Let You Go," to our dear friend and band member Take Toriyama.

(Soundbite of "Never Gonna Let You Go")

YDSTIE: To hear an extra song from Slavic Soul Party's live performance in our studio, as well as a track from the CD "Teknochek Collision," go to our Web site,

This is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm John Ydstie.

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