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May 1999

Taraf de Haidouks
Tarif de Haidouks
Nonesuch Records

There's a wild spirit fueling the Romanian gypsy band known as Taraf de Haidouks, which has just released its U.S. debut (Nonesuch ; 45:30). Energetic improvisations, breakneck tempos, and scratchy passions abound, as might be expected of a group with a name meaning "band of brigands," based in the humble rural village of Clejani, close to Bucharest. But, wait, there's more: the tight ensemble weave and the entrenched cultural roots that make this group one of the more exciting new arrivals on the international scene, confirming the thrill of seeing them perform in the stunning documentary on gypsy life-and especially music--Latcho Dromi, from 1992.

This U.S. debut is actually culled from three separate releases in Europe since that film flung them into wider acclaim. Like the rambling spirit of gypsy culture itself, the music here taps into a synthesis of musical reference points, including Turkey, India, and the Balkans. At root, though, it's just music of universal appeal, of invigorating, technical dizzying power.

Originally published in May 1999
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