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Review: The Rough Guide to Russian Gyspsies . . . twice

We’ve never done this before (and unless your humble editor messes up a second time, we won’t do it again): Here’s two reviews of the same album.  What’s most interesting is that two people on opposite sides of the country focused on many of the same aspects of this Rough Guide.

Various Artists
Rough Guide to the Music of Russian Gypsies
[World Music Network (2010)]

The Russian Gypsy Rough Guide focuses on the vibrant musical traditions that survived among the gypsy populations in Russia during the Soviet era and into the present day. The emphasis is on lively instrumentals and songs with the lead instrument usually either the distinctive Russian seven-string guitar, the violin or both. The artists are a diverse lot, including Russian film star Igor Krykunov, the pop-inflected Russka Roma, and instrumental virtuosos including guitarist Vadim Gulitskii and violinist Oleg Ponomarev. The bonus disc, The Art of the Russian Gypsy Guitar, features the intricate, haunting guitar duets of Kolpakov duo, comprising noted guitarist Alexander Kolpakov and his nephew Vadim Kolpakov. On both discs, the similarities to the Romanian Gypsy music popularized by Django Reinhardt and his musical descendants are obvious, but the bittersweet minor key melodies are distinctly Russian.

—Michael Parrish (San Jose, CA)

With the passion and fire of Gypsy (Roma) music and husky emotions of Russia, The Rough Guide To The Music Of Russian Gypsies is a culture-blending celebration of nimble 7-string guitar passages that’d make Django Reinhardt envious, classically-shaded violins, and full-spirited squeezeboxes. Together for more than 60 years, Siberian ensemble Gelem provide a link to the roots, while the masterful playing of violinists Oleg Ponomarev (“Deda”), Nikolai Erdenko (Ilo) (“Feldy”), and Sergey Erdenko, leader of Loyko (“Sare Patrya”), guitarist Vadim Kulitskii of Talisman (“Moonlight”), and the singing of Alexei Dukevich (“Moldova”), Mikhail Buzilev (“Vanka”), and Igor Krykunov (“Ney Smushai”), point to the music’s future. L.P Mikhay transforms a traditional 18th century dance tune (“Opai Dad”), into an unaccompanied vocal masterpiece, while Erdenko’s daughter, Leonsia Erdenko sings a Russian version of the Macedonian Gypsy anthem (“Lumba”). St. Petersburg-based Trio Rita apply a unique touch to a traditional Russian song (“Kalina”). The Kolpakov Trio, featuring 7-string guitarists, Alexander “Sasha” Kolpakov and his nephew, Vadim Kolpakov, and violinist Arkady Gips, showcase their awe-inspiring musicianship with a track on the multi-artist disc (“Grastoro”) and an 11-track bonus disc, “The Art Of Russian-Gypsy Guitar”, recorded during their May 2003 performances in Solon, Iowa.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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