Fanfare Ciocărlia is one of the world’s greatest live bands, its energy and ingenuity having won the band fans from Melbourne to Memphis, Tokyo to Toulouse. Having learnt their craft at the feet of their fathers and grandfathers Fanfare’s members proudly approach every concert as a challenge to both entertain audiences and keep the true spirit of Gypsy music alive.
When Fanfare Ciocărlia—the brass orchestra from the “hidden” village of Zece Prăjini in northeastern Romania—takes the stage the crowd receives 100% Gypsy music. Zece Prăjini’s isolation—situated in a misty valley, the valley’s dirt roads are occupied by flocks of geese and horse and carts; here live eighty Gypsy farming families who live a traditional rural lifestyle dictated by nature’s seasons—meant that under communism the village remained hidden from the outside world. Somehow the ancient Ottoman tradition of brass bands accompanying armies, weddings, and funerals continued to exist here when it had long died out in the rest of Romania. And when Henry Ernst, a young German music fan, wandered into the village in 1996 he found a living tradition that he knew the world would embrace.
And so it did. Fanfare Ciocărlia—whose name translates as “lark’s song”—conquered Europe in 1997, its furious live blast appealing to punks and headbangers, jazz and funk fans, world music aficionados, and those who simply love music that sounds absolutely unique. Even the classical world embraced Fanfare Ciocărlia and it has since performed at many prestigious philharmonic halls. The Romanian’s breakneck speed, technical chops, ripping rhythms, and sweet-and-sour horns is quite different from any other brass band on earth. Everyone who heard Fanfare Ciocărlia agreed on one thing—no brass band had ever played as fast as this before. Make that two things: no brass band had ever sounded like this before! Fanfare Ciocărlia went on to conquer the USA, Japan, and Australia. The Gypsies may only have spoken their local Romany dialect but their music spoke an international language and audiences responded to their fierce Balkan funk by turning concerts into parties. What Fanfare Ciocărlia played was something new. The Times of London described it as “a heavy, heavy monster sound” and Fanfare’s recordings have taken their eerie Balkan groove into dance clubs across the planet.
Along the way Fanfare Ciocărlia has been celebrated by critics and championed in all kinds of media: it stars in several films (Ralf Marschalleck’s Iag Bari follows the band on tour across Europe while Fatih Akin’s Head On has them ripping up Hamburg’s clubs), owns the cover of Princes Amongst Men (Garth Cartwright’s acclaimed book on Romany musical culture), was commissioned by Sacha Baron Cohen to cut biker anthem “Born to Be Wild” for the Borat soundtrack and has been sampled and covered, championed and emulated, by countless DJs, bands, and Gypsy orchestras. Its radical reinterpretations of popular Western standards—including the James Bond Theme and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”—show how the Romanian orchestra effortlessly “Gypsifies” any music it gets its horns on.
Besides making great music Fanfare Ciocărlia has twice developed brilliant musical theater; Gypsy Queens & Kings (which brought together many of Europe’s greatest Romany musicians) and Balkan Brass Battle (which saw the Romanians face a Serbian orchestra) both toured the world to great acclaim. Fanfare Ciocărlia has released eight albums, several of which have topped the European World Music charts. Its DVD Brass on Fire was acclaimed by Songlines magazine as “setting a new standard for music documentaries.” The group has played over 1,200 concerts and likes to consider itself “the hardest working band in the blow biz.” Put simply: nobody does it better, harder, faster, funkier than Fanfare Ciocărlia.
Having debuted in Cleveland in 2013 to tremendous acclaim on the museum’s Ohio City Stages summer series, Fanfare Ciocărlia returns for its first-ever appearance in Gartner Auditorium.
$53–$69, CMA members $48–$62