Sadly this is not so much the frenzied new-folk cabaret promised so much as an...
Tim Nelson 2007-06-29
In theory, the concept behind the twelve-piece Taraf de Haidouk’s fifth album, Maskarada is intriguing, as the album is conceived as a ‘re-gypsyfied’ reply to early 20th Century classical composers such as Ravel or Bartok (two of whose compositions are included here, along with work by de Falla and Khachaturian) who themselves borrowed from the gypsy tradition; in turn we are asked to imagine a concert hall transformed to a cabaret. Unfortunately at some point the revellers seem to have strayed into a hall of mirrors leaving us feeling dizzy and a little sick.
For centuries, gypsy musicians stood at the crossroads between the traditional and formal, the folk dance and the court ball, and Taraf de Haidouks set out, in a somewhat academic fashion to take us through the changes from the waltz to the sirba. It’s often the case that the more intellectualised the musical concept, the less moved we actually feel, and so Maskarada proves too. For every powerful re-interpretation (the Bartok pieces, or “Asturias”) there is either a stilted retread of the kind of music you would pay for people not to play, or, at least, not to play near you (“De Cind Ma Aflat Multimea” or “Lezghinka” come to mind). By the time “In A Persian Market” comes around with its appropriation of “Autumn Leaves” the main question is not so much who is wearing the disguise as to how much longer lazy appropriation can be disguised as playful reinterpretation, the answer, being nine more tracks, approximately. Sadly this is not so much the frenzied new-folk cabaret promised so much as an Olde-World heritage affair, however pretty the sleeve or dressed-up the concept.