Shantel Planet Paprika Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

He doesn't take himself too seriously, and neither should you.

Jon Lusk 2009

Also known as Stefan Hantel, German DJ, singer and musician Shantel is a controversial figure. His remixes of Balkan gypsy music scored in the 2006 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, but his appropriation and commercialisation of these and other native sounds have raised hackles among purists.

That said, this latest album doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is, offering some enjoyably silly dance tunes (think: Macarena in the Balkans), throwaway humour and several heavyweight guest artists.

In Garth Cartwright's 2005 book Princes Amongst Men, one member of Romanian gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia memorably described Shantel's work on theirs as “dogs***”. There is an undeniable whiff of said substance about what he does, but he has also given music from Turkey, Romania, and the Bucovina region of his parents a youthful, clubby audience well beyond the world music ghetto.

“There's too much death and too little sex,” he raps, tongue firmly in cheek on the Balkan ska of Citizen of Planet Paprika. This guy doesn't take himself too seriously, and neither should you.

On the irritating sing-songy chorus of Being Authentic (which starts with the kind of acoustic guitar strum Flight of the Conchords use between skits) he openly declares: “Absolutely inauthentic / My style is egocentric,” attempting to wrong foot his critics. Nevertheless, the same song also includes Dario Ivkovic's virtuosic accordion solo and a burbling Balkan brass section featuring trumpeter Marko Markovic, a rising star of Serbian gypsy music.

Other notable guests include Canadian singer Brenna MacCrimmon – whose sincerity in adopting Turkish music as her own is beyond question – and, on Sura ke Mastura, a voice from the grave in the form of Greek rembetika singer Anestis Delias.

Shantel’s limitations as both a composer and lyricist are laid bare on the puerile Wandering Stars, and in several other samey melodies, which call into question how much he relies on folklore for his tunes. But the impressively OTT auto-tune job on Sorin Konstantin's vocals during Binaz in Dub is a guilty pleasure to rival the trashiest Balkan turbo-pop hit.

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