The Arty Semite

Bringing Slavic Soul to Rikers Island

By Keith Meatto

  • Print
  • Share Share
Slavic Soul Party!

As their name implies, Slavic Soul Party! updates traditional Eastern European sounds with a festive, contemporary feel. Their instrumental music conjures carnivals and circuses, pep bands and klezmer bands, James Brown and James Bond. Brooklyn music aficionados may know Slavic Soul Party! from their weekly Tuesday gigs at Barbès; uptowners may have caught them at Carnegie Hall. Like Johnny Cash and B.B. King, the band also plays prisons, with a show on November 19 at Sing Sing Correctional Facility and October 5 at Rikers Island.

There are no vocals in Slavic Soul Party!, which sets them apart from their fellow Gypsy Punk travelers Balkan Beat Box and Gogol Bordello. Instead, they are all about the music. On “Taketron,” their fifth and most recent album on the Barbès label, Slavic Soul Party! unleashes jazz jams over gypsy grooves and military marches. These 13 tunes feature horns, drums, and accordion that play with precision at a punk rock pace, and the volume that makes brass instruments an orchestra’s loudest bunch. If you have a migraine, this isn’t the record for you. But if you want to dance and sweat like you’re at a Baltic bash, then go ahead and press play.

While Slavic Soul Party! revels in their rowdiness, their sound stops short of cacophony and chaos. “Taketron” is eclectic, but never esoteric. The frenzy is mitigated by the catchiness and simplicity of their melodies and harmonies. Listeners should recognize the oompah oompah pulse of “Tatiana” and “Sarba,” a Moldovan folk tune. And the band’s version of “Canaan Land,” a Scottish-American folk tune, sounds like a New Orleans take on “Tutti Frutti.”

Below the trumpet, saxophones, trombones and accordions, bandleader Matt Moran drives the rhythm; his drums help give “Taketron” its rah-rah sound. Moran also shows a multicultural range with his arrangements of songs by Spanish guitarist Gerardo Núñez Díaz and The Rebirth Brass Band. And his arrangement of “Laughter Club” appears in the eponymous film about the practice in India, a subject recently covered in The New Yorker. Moran also plays vibes with avant-garde composer John Hollenbeck, proof of his musical bona fides.

Another key player is trombonist Jacob Garchik, who composed or arranged five songs on “Taketron,” including the title track. Garchick, who appeared on the last several Slavic Soul Party! albums, has released three albums as a solo artist and has worked with heavyweights from the Kronos Quartet to Anthony Braxton.

The players’ pedigrees are reflected in their musicianship, from the tight baritone sax riffs that open the album, to the plaintive trumpet on the last track, “Hymn.” The high-energy “Baltika” features a trombone solo by Brian Drye, who wrote the tune and whose resume includes stints with Hollenbeck and indie rock superstars Arcade Fire. And given the band’s Brooklyn base, their multi-cultural bent, and the party vibe of “Taketron,” it’s not a stretch to guess that “Baltika” alludes to Eastern Europe’s largest brewery, whose beers are sold in Greenpoint, the Polish neighborhood that has evolved into a hipster enclave. L’Chaim!

Listen to Slavic Soul Party! play ‘Baltika’ on WNYC:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tutti Frutti, Tatiana, Slavic Soul Party, The Rebirth Brass Band, The New Yorker, Taketron, Slavic Music, Sing Sing, Sarba, Rikers Island, New Orleans, Music, Moldovan Music, Matt Moran, Laughter Club, Kronos Quartet, Klezmer, Johnny Cash, John Hollenbeck, James Brown, James Bond, Jacob Garchik, Hymn, Greenpoint, Gogol Bordello, Gerardo Núñez Díaz, Folk Music, Eastern European Music, Carnegie Hall, Canaan Land, Brooklyn Music, Brooklyn Bands, Brooklyn, Brian Drye, Barbès, Baltika, B.B. King, Balkan Beat Box, Anthony Braxton

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.