Podcast: Essential Balkan Brass

A podcast to accompany a feature on Balkan Brass bands

Year: 2007

A 1 minute read

I think it lost its way after Coltrane, with a few exceptions like the consciousness of Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders et al on Impulse, and the best band in the world, but that is another story.

As a young trumpet player bored of jazz, there were only two choices as far as I knew: Gypsy or Cuban. I couldn’t afford the airfare to Miami, let alone Cuba, and I knew Russian, so I figured if I didn’t know Romanes, at least I could blag it in Serbian.

And so began a lifelong love affair with Gypsy brass music. Somehow I found Amala, a Gypsy music school, and called them up. Instead of going to their school, could they find me a family to live with play with for a month? “Sure,” said the cracked voice at the end of the line, “you just come.”

Dragan in someone's living room doing his thang

And so with a trumpet, a few deutschmarks and not much else, I found myself getting off a train in Belgrade station to meet Dragan Ristic, a cheerful, bald chain-smoker who turned out to be a top guitarist and local political Roma activist from a well-known Belgrade theatre family.

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