Nice series of portraits of instruments and their players. What instrument do you play, Miguel?
I've been fascinated by Balkan swing (that's what this music is to me) for a long time. A Greek friend of mine has musicians in his band who - like he himself - do not limit their repertoire to Greek music only but play whatever they like from Balkan traditions. And he was the one who explained to me how you count 7/8, 11/8 or other to me rather unfamiliar rhythms that sound so intriguing and immediately prompt people to dance along. If you didn't count along you'd never realize there's anything unusual.
The 5/8 rhythm became known all over the world through Brubeck's 'Take Five'. And it's easy once you count one-two-three, one-two etc. We German's are just too much used to even rhythms (4/4) and 3/4 waltzes.
One of the (many, many) things I love about Balkan music is the way musicians (and dancers, too) naturally syncopate almost every rhythm. When you grow up both hearing this music, and/or dancing to it, and/or playing it (and for various complex personal reasons, Balkan music and rhythms have been part of my life since early childhood), the beats - and the rhythms - feel natural. But for many so-called 'western' musicians (generally of the classically-trained variety, but also from other backgrounds) mastering the subtleties (the subtexts, if you will) of uneven-tempo'ed rhythms, to the point where one can both improvise effortlessly within a rhythmic framework - but also, at the same time, always 'be on rhythm' - can be... quite challenging. And the newer generation of Balkan music virtuosos - including the now semi-legendary 'wedding music' bands of Ivo Papasov - further complicated everything by occasionally playing syncopated rhythms in 11/16, 13/16/ 9/8 and so on, at warp speeds.
Once you 'get them', you no longer are obliged to 'count them' out, except (often) for one's own amusement. Last Sunday, one of the tunes we played was a composite of two cycles of 7/8 +one of 11/16 = more or less 7 + 7 + 11 = a syncopated rhythm in... (are you sitting down?) 25!
Here are two cool recordings of the tune - the first by The Trials of Cato, the Welsh/English folk trio--
The second, a whacked-out mandolin duet by Mike Marshall and Chris Thile, recording during a concert tour (almost 15 years ago!)--
And, just for fun, two more fine concert recordings of another tune played at last Sunday's jam session, 'Krivo Sadosko', a tune in 13/16 (which is usually counted in 6 beats, with 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 being 'short' beat, and 4 being a 'long' beat). First, a 'live' (concert) video of the Barcelona Gipsy Orchestra:
And second, a version recorded at the beginning of the Covid pandemic back in 2020, by three outstanding balkan musicians who did the recording 'remotely' together: Bjørn-Petter Tøsse, the brilliant Norwegian accordionist (who has made a name for himself internationally as a brilliant Balkan musician), playing along with two Bulgarian musicians, the clarinetist Stojan Stojanov, and percussionist Filip Arilon (who's playing the tupan, variations of which abound across the middle east and north Africa, as well as in all the Balkan countries). Their version is a little closer to warp speed than most: