Fell in love with a Gypsy

August 13th, 2009 by Jason Jenkins

Gogol Bordello

The gypsies are coming!

Nothing new actually. Gypsy bands have been touring Japan for years, but this summer may mark a watershed moment since two of the most talked-about acts at Japan’s major music festivals were Roma music progenitors: Sweden’s Räfven at Fujirock and New York’s Gogol Bordello at Summer Sonic.

Both are big bands (8 or 9 people onstage) with a big sound. And now, possibly a big impact. Creating a new Fujirock record, Räfven performed eight times at the festival, playing everywhere from the massive Red Marquee stage to the Mokudoutei, a small wooden platform set up along a boardwalk through the forest. Word spread over the weekend (their CD was one of the fest’s highest-selling), and by their final shows, crowds had grown massive . . . and rowdy. Ever seen 200 Japanese kids mosh to accordions and violins? It’s magnificent.

Räfven are unknowns on the global stage, but Gogol Bordello have recently taken the world by storm (even Madonna wants a piece of Eugene Hütz, the band’s prolific frontman). Hütz‘s self-proclaimed “Immigrant Punk” style has made Gogol Bordello the darling of the global festival circuit with its unclassifiable mix of musical signifiers (band members hail from Russia, Ethiopia, Israel, Scotland, Ecuador, America and elsewhere). Imagine if the Clash gigged at a Jewish-Ukrainian mafia wedding in late 70′s Detroit and you’ll get a rough idea. They were THE band of Fujirock 2008, so I wasn’t surprised to see them back in Japan last weekend at Summer Sonic, Japan’s other big fest. Performing at the distant Beach stage at the same time as Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips and Beyoncé, Gogol was packed, and sand was flying. Mark my words: Räfven and Gogol Bordello will be back. And when they do, buy a ticket.

All of this attention should be good news for Plankton, the Japanese label/promoter responsible for most of Japan’s interest in Roma music. Two authentic Romanian Gypsy bands — the brass-heavy Fanfare Ciocarlia and the string-based Taraf de Haïdouks — have Plankton to thank for their fanbase here. They’ll be bringing over Angelo Debarre and Ludovic Beier this September — not exactly a barnburner like those described above, but the more palatable “gypsy swing” style of the most famous gypsy musician of all: Django Reinhardt.

Image courtesy of Makiko Endo

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts

  • Marketers capitalize on university entrance exam time

    This week there is something weighing heavy on the minds of many students who’d like to advance to college: the National Center Test for University Admissions. It’s being held Jan. 18-19. Those with their heart set on a particular school who don’t get a good enough score may choose to spend a year, or in [...]

  • Pulsations 1.13.14

    The first batch of Pulsations in 2014 features a twist on chopstick design, a spectacular holiday illumination in Osaka and more.

  • Feelin’ lucky? The highs and lows of ‘fukubukuro’

    Whether you count fukubukuro “lucky bags” as a thank-you to shoppers, a scheme to unload less popular merchandise at the end of the year or just a way to kick off the New Year’s sales, buying a mystery pile of stuff worth [hopefully far] more than the price tag is a tempting offer to many. [...]

  • Pulsations (12.6.13)

    This collection of Pulsations brings holiday cheer in bento form, a must-see project for font-lovers, a solo stop-motion animation effort and more!

  • Joysound’s top 10 karaoke songs of 2013

    Joysound karaoke announced their top songs of 2013! However, just because they’re popular does not mean they came out this year . . .

  • Tokyo Eggs Benedict Bingo

    Eggs Benedict with awesome bacon, with a near lack of eggs, with raw tuna! Wait, raw tuna?! We sample a handful of Tokyo’s Hollandaise sauces.

  • Pulsations (11.19.13)

    Fashion, art and snacktime collide in this collection of Pulsations! Plus: Doraemon makes his 3D film debut!

  • J-blip: Tsutaya launches one-stop ‘lifestyle’ bookshop

    Bookseller Tsutaya moves into the lifestyle business and gives consumer more ways to use T-points.

  • Autumn crop of pumpkin, purple potato and pear products

    The change of season prompts a change of snack flavorings – great for those with a pumpkin craving.

  • Tokyo Designers Week 2013

    This year’s Tokyo Designers Week gets its creative juices flowing with more markets, music and a festival vibe.

Read more:
Trending alert: 2 PM
Tweet Beat: #이노래를듣고돌 #wizard #finalburning

K-pop, Sunday morning TV, and pre wrestling topics are among last week's top Twitter hashtags in Japan.