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Slovak folklore meets Balkan

THE SLOVAK band Banda, which has been playing world music since 2003, has launched an irregular series of concerts – called Keby všetky bandy sveta (If All the Bands in the World) – in which it invites other local bands of the same genre to perform a joint concert. After having performed with Nebeská muzika from Terchová in January, Banda joined Balkansambel from Žilina on May 30 in Petržalka’s Klub za Zrkadlom.

Banda plays during rehearsal.(Source: SME)

THE SLOVAK band Banda, which has been playing world music since 2003, has launched an irregular series of concerts – called Keby všetky bandy sveta (If All the Bands in the World) – in which it invites other local bands of the same genre to perform a joint concert. After having performed with Nebeská muzika from Terchová in January, Banda joined Balkansambel from Žilina on May 30 in Petržalka’s Klub za Zrkadlom.

Banda, with its folk roots, focuses on re-arranging Slovak traditional songs in a more contemporary way. Sometimes the musicians stick to the original version, sometimes they completely transform the resulting sound, influenced by jazz, blues, classical music, rock, or the ethnic music of other countries.

In October 2011, Banda placed eighth in the World Music Chart Europe, which is a chart of world music albums appearing all around the world as selected by European radio journalists and DJ playing the genre. Their album “Banda jedna” remained in the Top 20 of this chart for several weeks.

“This fact has not changed much in our lives, but it is a matter of prestige. And we managed to give a few concerts abroad,” Samuel Smetana, leader of Banda, told The Slovak Spectator.

“However, you should consider that ours is a rather marginal genre, and it does not have as strong a position in Slovakia, as for example in the Czech Republic,” Alžbeta Lukáčová, another member, added. Other fixed members are Ivan Hanula and Peter Obuch, while the percussionists change from time to time, the current one being Igor “Ajdži” Sabo.

Choosing a match

“When choosing bands to play with us in concerts, we simply pick those who could match our repertoire well,” Smetana continued. “Combining different styles, cultures and elements is exactly what makes world music so interesting and the bands’ style so individual. The more variety, the better.”

This was proven by Banda’s May guests, the Balkansambel grouping. Since its foundation in 2009, Balkansambel has performed its own version of Balkan music, including use of original, and sometimes quite exotic, instruments – some of which are “self-made”. Part of its performances are also “dance courses” in which band member Zuzana Burianová encourages audiences to dance to the vivid Balkan sounds.

“Our members have long been lured by Balkan rhythms and tunes. This has been the attraction that brought us together,” the ensemble’s leader, Marek Pastírik, told The Slovak Spectator. “Where do we draw our inspiration? It starts 200 kilometres to the south, of course [i.e. in the Balkans region]. But in the era of the internet, this is not difficult. We even get to know original instruments in this way.”

“Our music is ideal for folklore festivals, summer open-air musical festivals comprising various genres, and we are also heading for the Dni majstrov (Days of the Masters) festival of traditional crafts in Bratislava,” Banda’s Smetana said. He declined to say which other bands might be asked to cooperate in the project, but said he would like to continue the series of joint concerts with musicians from Slovakia and maybe abroad.

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