Balogh Kalman & the
Gipsy Cimbalom Band,
Balogh Kalman & the
Gipsy Cimbalom Band

(XenoMusic, 2001)

Balogh Kalman and the Gipsy Cimbalom Band start their CD with a party, or at least a song that feels like a party. "Gypsy Colours" calls up the image of a gathering just beginning to unwind, as the opening of the tune flirts with itself. As the party goes on, the tune grows rowdier, with partygoers singing loudly and the groups of chatterers growing louder and more outrageous. "Gypsy Colours" should serve as fair warning; this is a party you're at, and there will be dancing.

The music of the Gipsy Cimbalom Band is hard to make general claims about, but if there is one thing common throughout the CD it is the sheer energy in every song. From friendly tunes like "Calusul Dance" to whirling horas and sliding swings of "The Lark," every song calls its listeners to join in, if not with music, then with action. The exotic strains of "Macedon Tunes" set feet moving as surely as the rolling drums of the "Bolgar Gypsy Horo."

The music is not unrelenting in its call to action. Some of the tunes are kind enough to give listeners the chance to sit down and catch their breath. The "Transylvanian Suite" slows its galloping pace for a long, thoughtful interlude. "Klezmer Tunes" begins sounding downright depressed before it talks itself up into defiant good cheer, and "Suite for Trumpet" spends enough time sounding like a lullaby that you may be rudely awakened when the horn suddenly begins to swing through the song.

If all the music had in its favor was this constant energy it would still be a terrifically fun album. What makes Balogh Kalman and the Gipsy Cimbalom Band fascinating instead of just fun is their constant challenging of their own genre. The artists have experience with a wide variety of musical genres and make an intoxicating game out of mixing them for best effect. The folk influence shows in the barn raising music that winds through "Calusul Dance" with its back and forth string plucking and cheerful, insistent fiddles. "A csitári hegyek alatt," with its smoky jazz attitude, wouldn't feel out of place in an old club or silent movie. For me, the most unusual blending was in "Hora de la Bim-Bim," when what should be a normal hora is enlivened by a voice with an almost country twang singing along. At first shocking, the two styles eventually blend into one, showing off the flexibility of this remarkable band.

In spite of this clever experimentation, this album never loses its gypsy sensibilities. This is music to entertain, and it does so splendidly. From their first spinning strings to the last trailing notes, which slink away as though hoping the listeners won't notice, Balogh Kalman & the Gipsy Cimbalom Band create a party with their music, and no one who hears will want to be a wallflower.

[ by Sarah Meador ]
Rambles: 13 April 2002