Balkan Brass Band Favorites From 'Global Village' From a mashup of funk and jazz out of Brooklyn to funky circus music from the Oaxaca Mountains, hear world-music DJ Betto Arcos' globe-spanning picks.
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Balkan Brass Band Favorites From 'Global Village'

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Balkan Brass Band Favorites From 'Global Village'

Balkan Brass Band Favorites From 'Global Village'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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If you're just joining us, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. World music DJ Betto Arcos is back with a stack of music he's been calling In Brass We Trust. Now, Betto, you've told me this band is called Slavic Soul Party. But so far, this doesn't really sound like a party that I'd want to hang out at.

BETTO ARCOS: Oh, just wait a couple of minutes. And this thing starts to build and build. This is Slavic Soul Party.


RATH: There we go. That sounds like a party now.

ARCOS: This is an amazing band. They're based in Brooklyn, New York. But their style is after the sound of the brass bands from the Balkans. As you can hear now, it's an explosion of brass instruments.

RATH: Now, I don't know a lot about this. But there is a great tradition of Balkan brass bands.

ARCOS: Absolutely. In fact, there's even a film, actually, called "Grasslands," that documents all of the brass bands that come into this area of Serbia, the town of Guca, where they come every year to participate in a big sort of festival competition of brass bands from around the world. And this is one of these bands. Slavic Soul Party, again, from New York. So you have, of course, a mix of what New York is. Not just the Balkan sound, but the funk, the soul, the R&B. All of the stuff that makes great music just exciting.


RATH: Once again, that's the band Slavic Soul Party with a track called "Brasslands." Betto, what next?

ARCOS: Next, a band from Romania, where there's also a big tradition of brass bands and Gypsy music, Roma music. This is from a band called Fanfare Ciocarlia accompanied, on guitar, by a jazz musician from Canada. And they do something really interesting. Let's take a listen.


RATH: It's definitely got a kind of a Gypsy, Roma dance feel to it.

ARCOS: That's right. It's sort of a swing tune because, as you can hear, you have a guitarist, who plays sort of like a Django Reinhardt type of guitar, the manush guiar. But he's playing it with this brass band. So it's like a big contrast between the two 'cause he's got a little instrument, so to speak, and then the loudness of the swing music of the brass band that's playing with him.

RATH: So is this traditional? Or are they coming up with their own kind of thing, mixing different traditions?

ARCOS: They play all kind of different music. But this is not a typical music that they play. They play a lot more sort of Gypsy-influenced type of music, Roma music, if you will. But here, they - you know, in order for this to work, they had to kind of adapt their sound to the guitarist because it's, after all, a collaboration.

RATH: And you mentioned Django Reinhart, the great Gypsy guitarist. And you can definitely have some of that feeling in this part.


RATH: That's music from Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia. I'm speaking with Betto Arcos. He hosts Global Village at KPFK here in Los Angeles. So our theme is brass band music. You've got an outfit called BRM. And I'll let you say this.

ARCOS: This is a band from Oaxaca, Mexico, from the mountains. It's called Banda Regional Mixe, which is sort of the acronym for BRM, regional Mixe band, if you will.


RATH: I've never been to Oaxaca. But I feel like a real sense of place, in this music.

ARCOS: Absolutely. Oaxaca has one of the greatest traditions of brass bands anywhere. There must be anywhere between 400 to 500 brass bands in the state of Oaxaca. This is one of them. And it came to the attention of a lot more people because of an American musician named Steven Brown, who many years ago, was the head of the band of Tuxedomoon, from San Francisco. He moved to Oaxaca 15 years ago and began to make connections with musicians there. And then he wanted to do something with a particular 'cause he felt that they were so special. He plays with his band, as well. This is a 16 piece brass band. And they sing in their native language, Mixe, one of 16 languages spoken in Oaxaca.

RATH: And what is he singing about here? What's the song about?

ARCOS: This song is all about keeping the tradition alive, and they are.


RATH: This is an outfit that called BRM. And so I don't butcher it, Betto, can you...

ARCOS: Absolutely. It's called Banda Regional Mixe, which translates as regional Mixe band or - Mixe is an ethnic group from Oaxaca.

RATH: Betto, we have time for more. What have you got?

ARCOS: This next one is a really interesting mix. This is a project called the La Internacional Sonora Balkanera. Mainly one DJ producer, who brings together all of these musicians from Mexico City. And they create something completely new, influenced by the music of the Balkans. But, in this case, we're going to hear the sound of the northwestern part of Mexico, the brass sound that you here in Los Angeles a lot.


RATH: This is the kind of music that gives you happy feet.

ARCOS: Absolutely, yeah. This is club music. This is dance music. This is the kind of stuff that, you know, over the last five years, it's taken off in Mexico. There's great interest. And bands have come up with this sort of Balkan music meets Mexican music sound.

RATH: Betto, say the name of the band for me one more time.

ARCOS: La Internacional Sonora Balkanera, which would translated as something like the international Balkan-sounding band.

RATH: That's Betto Arcos. He's the host of Global Village on KPFK here in Los Angeles. Betto, it's always a pleasure.

ARCOS: Great to be with you.


RATH: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.

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