This rare and fascinating compilation Stand Up People fuses Romanian pop songs with Turkish, Indian and Western influences of a bygone age.
The album collates recordings from between 1964 and 1980 by Roma gypsy musicians from Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia.
A labour of love for British eccentrics Phillip Knox and Nathaniel Morris (Vlax Records) who set out with a vision to assemble rare and forgotten vinyl. Scaling flea markets and hidden corners of the cobweb ridden lofts of former Yugoslavia, to stumble upon well known artists Esma Redzepvova and Saban Bajramovic as well as mining rarities by Medo Cun and Bedrije Misin. The duo then returned to London to re-master and restore the records, managing to keep the warmth of the analogue recordings intact and at the heart of the project.
The rootsy nature of Ansambl Montenegro’s ‘Djelem, Djelem’ holds rustic timbres, jerky rhythmic percussion and snake-charming clarinet. Psychedelic organs and raucous theatrical vocals rule Esma Redzepova’s ‘Pesma Seher Sarajevu’, while ‘Dzemile’s frantic arrangements and Medo Cun’s traditionally bright harpsichord remain customary Roma dance songs. Muharem Serbezovski who is best known for his freestyle clarinet solos, takes a less excepted influence of Bollywood backing vocals and jazz instrumentation on ‘Ramajana’.
The stable force and recurring theme behind Stand Up, People partially lies within the lyrical context, based around the longing for home, love and loss, giving a continuous sense of melancholy and aching in both the melodies and vocal arrangements. The musical experimentation, variety and widening artistic nature of the time is captured in the album through its imagery and cinematic views of growing landscapes and diverse cultures. With songs ranging from the haunting melodies, hypnotic vocals and tentative Indian rhythms of Nehat Gasi to Ava Salami’s ‘Ah Bre Divia’, a humorous wedding song fueled with Balkan brass and Eastern European pop.
Stand Up, People stands alone as an eclectic and original gem of an album, full of songs that have been hidden away for far too many years. Knox and Morris manage to bring a modern edge to the music, combining the rootsy fundamentals of the traditional gypsy folk escapades with more contemporary influences such as Bollywood and pop rock, without losing any of the spirit. This may just be one of the most captivating and charming collections of songs to hear this year, and deserves to be heard by all.
Stand Up People – Gypsy Pop Songs From Tito’s Yugoslavia 1964-1980 is out now on Vlax Records
words Alan Byatt