GYPSY CARAVAN 2 featuring FANFARE CIOCARLIA, ESMA REDZEPOVA, MAHARAJA and the ANTONIO EL PIPA FLAMENCO ENSEMBLE at Massey Hall, October 17. Tickets: $28.50-$42.50. Attendance: 1,500. Rating: NNNN
those coming to the second instalment of the Gypsy Caravan hoedown expecting to see merrily cavorting bands of fiddling men sporting head scarves and earrings were in for a surprise. The whole point of Gypsy Caravan 2 was to counter the common Hollywood-propagated stereotypes of Gypsy music by presenting some of the lesser-known manifestations of the Gypsy sound. Cue handlebar-moustached Rajasthani crew Maharaja (formerly Musafir), from the Thar desert, strapped with kartal, sarangi and a dholak drum -- clearly not the usual Gypsy song and dance.
While Maharaja's music seems partly inspired by the trance-inducing Qawwali drone, their Manghaniyar and Langa songs were a much rawer rural form, more like a Qawwali blues.
Next up, Esma Redzepova pushed forth, hollering like a Macedonian Big Maybelle over the blaring trumpet, clarinet and accordion front line of Ensemble Teodosievski.
Known as the Queen of the Gypsies for good reason, the charismatic Redzepova demonstrated a veteran's sense of stagecraft as she emoted her way through each syllable -- laughing in rhythm one moment and blubbering fake tears in key the next -- turning her set into a mini-opera of her own.
It was a hard act to follow, but Rom brass blasters Fanfare Ciocarlia were up for the challenge. Admittedly, they didn't look all that different from the dudes you see playing cards in smoky joints on College or Danforth, but when they raised their horns and started to blow, whoa! What a powerful noise.
Their tuba 'n' trumpet jams were noticeably slower than their blistering recordings -- a concession they make for western audiences -- but the 10-strong posse still tooted up a storm that had a number of patrons pressing their palms to their ears.
After Fanfare's fearsome getdown, having Antonio El Pipa Flamenco Ensemble close the show was a scheduling faux pas. All the stomping, strutting and strumming -- though pleasant enough -- was no match for the heavy-honking Fanfare Ciocarlia.