The word funky isn't often associated with traditional Serbian Roma music. At least, not until trumpeter Boban Markovic assembled his badass brass band and began honking up a storm. Based around the booty-bumpin' bottom end provided by tuba terror Sasa Alisanovic (the Bootsy Collins of Balkan brass), the 10-piece Boban Markovic Orkestar was an immediate sensation.
By finding innovative ways to incorporate elements of klezmer and New Orleans brass with an improvisational edge, they've dominated the "battle of the brass" showdown at the annual Guca festival in recent years, and you can hear why on their explosive new Live In Belgrade (Piranha) disc.
Markovic's trophy case is so full, he has graciously decided to skip the competition in future and give the other combos a chance.
"I'd still like to go to Guca to listen to the other bands," explains Markovic through a translator. "But because I've won all the prizes that there are to win several times over, my idea would be to perform outside of the competition to attract more people to the festival so they discover the many great bands."
Markovic is now making long-range plans to expand his reach outside of Serbia.
Early next year he'll return to the studio to record an album with guest musicians from Scandinavia, but at the moment he's working on raising his profile in North America with a short tour, hitting New York, Chicago and Toronto for the first time.
It's already been a huge success from Markovic's perspective, and judging by the fact that a second Opera House show has been added for Sunday (October 6), there's obviously an interest in the contemporary Balkan brass sound he's putting down.
"We had no idea how we would be received in New York, but they had us play for three hours at the Knitting Factory. And we were supposed to play only two hours at the Chicago World Music Festival, but the crowd shouted for encores -- it was amazing!
"The people who came to our show in Madison, Wisconsin, knew how to do the Balkan dances, and there were hundreds of people. It really shocked us to see that these Americans knew all the steps. For non-professionals, they were excellent." email@example.com
BOBAN MARKOVIc Orkestar performing as part of the SMALL WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Friday and Sunday (October 4 and 6). $30. 416-466-0313. www.smallworldmusic.com