Two nights ago Albania’s Fanfara Tirana met London’s Transglobal Underground in a rare UK appearance at The Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch, London.
“An Albanian legend tells that a clarinet player was crying at his wife’s death bed. She asked him to cry on his clarinet instead and as he did so he created the first Kaba.”
It’s rare that Albanian music gets it’s fair share of attention outside the Balkans, yet the deeply original sound of this mountainous nation, combined with a myriad of influences from Turkey, Greece, Italy and all over the Balkans is something very special. 3 years ago legendary London electronic fusionists Transglobal Underground were asked to remix a couple of tracks by Albanian brass masters Fanfara Tirana for an album in which the Tirana based band were developing away from their Balkan brass beginnings and including much more specifically Albanian traditions into their sound, notably featuring the stunning voice of vocalist and folklorist Hysni Niko Zela. Little did anyone know at the outset how big a project this was going to grow into…..
Growing into a full collaboration between both ensembles, the resulting album ‘Kabatronics’ presented a new take on stunning musical tradition, often under-explored outside Albania itself, Winner of an IMA award for best World Music album in 2014, the album spawned a series of lives shows across Southern Europe over 2013 and 2014. In 2015 a 9 piece version of the collaboration supercharged the mix, venturing out into Northern Europe and making a spectacular appearance at the Jaipur festival in January.
The current line-up pits the traditional Albanian clarinet style of Fatbardh Capi against Sheema Mukherjees sitar, and the Balkan stomp of Xhamal Muraj and Gazmor Halilaj against TGUs electronic beats, drums and tablas. In the middle of it all, Hysni Niko Zela mixes his unique voice with the dancehall stylings of MC and storyteller TUUP…a London mashup mashed up with a Tirana mashup to create one of the most dynamic mixes you’ll here anywhere.
“Burns like a borderless World Music fireworks display.” Stuttgart Zeitung
“Fanfara Tirana could stun a badger at 50 paces” Songlines
There’s a real vitality and immediacy to the meaty beats, crunching tubas and mercurial clarinets that speak lucidly of both past and present.” Independent
“Here’s an experiment that actually works….a highly entertaining clash of Albanian brass and beats, with unexpected echoes of India or the Caribbean added in.” Guardian