Rumen & Angel Shopov,
Soul of the Mahala
(Shopovi, 2006)

This isn't music you're likely to find on your local AM/FM radio station. And it might not fulfill your expectations if you have a biased opinion of what constitutes gypsy music.

Soul of the Mahala is a CD of remarkable music played by superb musicians. It's Rumen and Angel Shopov, a talented father and son, getting together with friends to share with us a taste of their music and its roots in the Turkish/Gypsy mahala (community) of southwestern Bulgaria.

The music often features complex meters and long, improvised solos. Some familiar instruments such as the clarinet, violin and accordion take prominent roles in some pieces while others feature the more unconventional tambura, bouzouki and zurna. Listen and you may hear elements of Klezmer, Slavic and Arabic music. Faced with prejudice, the virtuoso Romany musicians were forced to practice diversity that resulted in the incorporation of these elements into their own.

This isn't commercial music. It's culturally deep-rooted and soulful. You may not understand the language of the singers but -- trust me -- the music has a universal appeal bound to move the listeners.

Rumen Shopov was a professional musician on doumbek and guitar by the time he was in his teens. He later joined the Gotse Delchev state folk ensemble and has been performing and teaching in the United States since 2002. His son, Angel, is both mahala and conservatory trained on a variety of instruments. Joining them on this CD are Slavei Madjirov, leading clarinetist of the Muslim mahala of Gotse Delchev; Zdravko Georgiev, accordionist; Anton Madjirov, keyboard and accordion; Atanas Mandukov, guitarist and electric bass; Krasimir Madjirov, saxophonist; Rumen Kamburov, vocalist; Kurta Suleimanov, zurna; Petar Avramov, kaval (end-blown flute); Petar Karamfilov, gaida (bagpipe); and Boiko Boichev, acoustic bass player.

Voice of Roma, a California-based nonprofit organization, produced Rumen Shopov's CD to help introduce the music and culture of the Roma to a wider audience. The album was recorded in Goce Delchev, Bulgaria.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
John R. Lindermuth

4 August 2007

what's new