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Fanfare Savale - Speed Brass of the Gypsies

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Artist: Fanfare Savale

Album: Speed Brass of the Gypsies

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: Apr. 6, 2005

While the concept of so-called scenes, and the multi-pronged influence of a locality on the music created by its inhabitants, is frequently exaggerated, it’s impossible to deny that it can be a useful way to approach the discussion of music. Art isn’t created in a vacuum, after all, and any output is doubtlessly going to contain, even if subconsciously, fragments of response to, or representation of, an artist’s surroundings. The problem in this approach is that it often allows for a crutch that makes it too easy to oversimplify and make broad, sweeping generalizations. The “Olympia sound,” New York’s downtown scene of the late '70s, and Manchester in the Factory Records heyday each contain both valid and more strenuous connections between bands and musicians, and have become signifiers that, more often than is prudent, have become an all too easy calling card for anyone looking to describe the music than has traditionally fallen into any of these categories. In certain cases, usually outside the realm of rock and popular music, though, these socio-geographical classifications are valid to an almost pinpoint degree. Fanfare Savale are a perfect example of such a case.

Gypsy music, a rather nebulous genre to the purist, can all be traced back to the music of the Romanes, a culture who emigrated from India around 300 B.C. In the intervening centuries, the term gypsy has become a signifier of the various strains of people that have resulted from this original society, and it’s not surprising that the resulting musical traditions of such a diverse population are quiet varied from country to country, province to province, and even town to town. Fanfare Savale hail from Zece Prãjini, a small village in Eastern Romania. Despite their miniscule population, the inhabitants of the village have a musical voice that roars above those of cities of myriad more residents. A longstanding musical tradition is imbued in the village’s residents, culminating in their own specific style of gypsy brass music. Fanfare Savale, and the residents of Zece Prãjini in general, make use of most of the tools, instrumentally and compositionally, that many of their peers implement. However, what sets this specific variety apart is the breakneck speeds at which it is often played. Though it seems nearly every male inhabitant of the village could just as easily fill a slot in the group, Fanfare Savale consists of only 10 members, enough to give the band’s sound heft and power, though not so many musicians that the quickly-moving compositions ever lose their fluidity and clarity. The songs are fast, often instrumental, and usually rather short. And though they’re not stunningly intricate, the speed at which the music is played often makes up for any simplicity, sometimes even making the troupe sound a bit cartoonish. For the most part, though, Fanfare Savale’s velocity and dexterity are exhibited in a more tasteful manner, and, after the disc’s 40 minutes, it’s easy to forget just how fast the group is playing, since by then their adroitness has rendered even 200 bpm as rather normal.

The traditional venues for gypsy music are community events; weddings, funerals, and the like. One would assume that Fanfare Savale play the same role in Zece Prãjini. If so, it’s hard to imagine even a funeral march that wouldn’t have patrons tapping their feet. Zece Prãjini must be a village of immense vitality, with groups like Fanfare Savale providing life’s soundtrack, and it likely will be for generations to come.

By Adam Strohm

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