Monday, February 14, 2011

To Bavaria, Bulgaria, and Beyond....a Multicultural Look at Brass Band Music

Brass music is a multicultural and multiethnic phenomenon. The reason it's so popular around the world is that it's dynamic and exciting, and it's hard to sit down while listening to it.

Brass orchestras or bands are usually accompanied by a percusssion section, and often woodwinds, such as clarinets and flutes. They play music that makes you get up and move, such as marches and dances, unlike a symphony orchestra, in which the primary purpose of the music is to be listened to in a concert hall.

I grew up with the Latin rhythms of Tito Puente. He popularized salsa and mambo back in the 1960's and 1970's, to the point this music eventually became mainstream. His parents were born in Puerto Rico. Tito Puente himself was a native of New York City and grew up in Spanish Harlem. The world lost a great musician when he died in the year 2000. Check out the brass and percussion in this performance, it's great!

Brass music is very popular in Germany. When I lived there, I couldn't get enough of it, especially at the Munich Oktoberfest. This music is native to Bavaria, in southern Germany, and goes well with beer and pretzels :), the name of the song is The Happy Woodcutters.

After I returned to the States, I took up Balkan dancing. At the place where I danced, the Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band did one of their first gigs. Back in the mid-1980's this kind of music was virtually unknown in the States, although it's very popular in Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. Here's a bit of their history from the trailer to their upcoming film: Brasslands: (Note, Brasslands was filmed in Serbia during the summer of 2010, and is scheduled to be released sometime this year.)

This is the first band from the United States to compete at the Guča Festival in Serbia. These New Yorkers have come a long way and Zlatne Uste is known way beyond the borders of the five boroughs. They hold a Golden Festival every January that's become so huge that that they had to move their venue to Brooklyn. The festival lasts for two nights, with bands playing simultaneously on four stages.

For more on Zlatne Uste, read:

The next video is that of a Balkan Brass Band workshop, led by the members of Zlatne Uste. Turn up the volume on this one, it will blow you away!

Diko Iliev, a Bulgarian composer, who lived from 1898-1984, popularized brass music in his homeland. His speciality was marches and folk dances,and his birthday falls on February 15. This piece is a Daichovo, a dance from northern Bulgaria.

For more on Diko Iliev and some of his delightful music, read:

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