Since the early-1960s Jamaican music has rocked the world: Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub, Dancehall having established internationally that beautiful, troubled island as a leader in musical innovation and good grooves. The fall of the Berlin Wall found Romania’s Gypsy musicians making a similar impression on the West with their ancient string bands and furious brass bands creating a groove like no other.
The funkiest of all Romanian bands are Mahala Rai Banda. This Bucharest-based band have mixed Funk and Latin flavours into furious brass groove and torn up stages across the world. In 2009, on their acclaimed album “Ghetto Blasters”, Mahala Rai Banda cut “Balkan Reggae”, a lovely, swinging instrumental that showed how Eastern cymbaloms, violins, accordions and trumpets could embrace a very Caribbean flavour.
Reggae in Romania? Few imagined that the Jamaican sound could penetrate so far East or that a Gypsy band could play it with such feel. Yet everyone who heard Balkan Reggae loved it and Reggae DJs across Europe began dropping the tune in their sets. As 2012 signaled the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence Mahala Rai Banda reached out to their Jamaican brethren and requested Dub remixes on Balkan Reggae.
The response was strong. Leading the charge was Mad Professor – the legendary, London-based Jamaican producer who has gone toe-to-toe with Lee Perry and Massive Attack amongst many others – followed by Nick Manasseh (feat. dread DJ Gregory Fabulous), Jstar, G-Vibes (feat. acclaimed Brixton Blues man Errol Linton), Vibronics, Kanka and Asphalt Tango artists La Cherga and Koby Israelite.
“Balkan Reggae” – The Dub Mixes is the first ever album where Balkan Gypsy music meets the Dreads uptown! As they like to shout over a hot mix in Trenchtown: “Irie!”
Check the video clip of Nick Manasseh’s mix feat. Gregory Fabulous online from end February 2013.