The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Fanfare Ciocarlia (live at the Sziget Festival, Budapest)

Fanfare CiocarliaReview Snapshot:
Romania-based brass specialists Fanfare Ciocarlia invited some of Europe's best gypsy performers to join them in making make deleriously danceable music for a giant crowd at the Sziget main world music stage. 

The CLUAS Verdict? 8 out of 10

Full review:
Few festivals have the kind of luck that Sziget has, to be in the midst of such genius. From Romania, Fanfare Ciocarlia continues a tradition going back to the Ottoman Empire when gypsy bands picked up gigs and instruments from Ottoman armies retreating from Europe.

Tonight Fanfare Ciocarlia's show opens with a trio of Flamenco-looking gypsy guitarists in cool, neat-fitting black sit in chairs by the front of the stage and cut their guitars into a flamenco tune, the lyrics in Catalan.

It all looked far too clean and polished for Fanfare Ciocalia, known for their lack of self consciouness and pretension. And then the pot bellied men appeared, through the dry ice and onto the back of the stage. Their shirts are unmatching shirts, tubas and horns resting on big guts.

The cocky trumpeter who speaks for the group all evening takes the front of the stage and the “Spaniards” – French-based gypsies Kaloome, we learn - depart. Fanfare Ciocarlia's first tune opens with a trademark shrill horns and a trumpet shuffle before the tubas kick in.

A couple of tunes later the band shifted tempo to fit popped up versions of Balkan gypsy tunes by singer Esma Redzepova from Macedonia, who alternated stage and tempo with Bulgarian traditionalist Jony Iliev and modernist Florentina Sandu from Romania.

The singers all appear on Fanfare Ciocarlia's latest album, Queens & Kings, which took this year's BBC World Music award for its remeshing of Balkan gypsy brass with the flamenco guitars and the speedy violins of other tribes. Hemmed in for decades by the Iron Curtain, Roma musicians are connecting again with cousins in other European lands with whom they previously shared tunes and influences.

From Zeve Prajeni, a tiny ethnic Moldovan hamlet in Romania, Fanfare Ciocalia were spotted and signed by Berlin based Asphalt Tango label in 1998 and haven’t stopped picking up awards and compliments since. Fanfare Ciocarlia's brass specialisms (rather than the strings of their contemporaries Taraf de Haidouks which played the Galway Arts Festival this year).

With the dry ice and the smartly choreographed introductions of various gypsy traditions the stage version of Queens & Kings shows the band have obviously learned plenty of stage tricks on their frequent global tour - which pulls into the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire on August 25.

The Irish date suggests there's two kinds of Roma gypsies. Fanfare Ciocarlia's fellow Romanian Roma were earlier this summer kicked off the Ballymun roundabout in Dublin and repatriated. Despised in many parts of Europe for their lifestyle, the Roma have nonetheless produced music and musicians prized by the rest of the world. At Sziget bronzed, blonde young festival goers dance with abandon to Fanfare Ciocarlia and in the nearby Roma music tent, generously arranged by world music label Putumayo. In music alone, it seems, Roma is cool.

Mark Godfrey

Check out's review of Fanfare Ciocarlia's album 'Iag Bari'.

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