By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In what remains of old Yugoslavia, what most folks call the Balkans, there exists a subculture, a group of wayward gypsies called Romani. Treated poorly by both authorities and the native population, Romani are segregated into inferior schools and restricted from working in worthwhile jobs. Surprisingly, the Romani culture has withstood such tribulation and has even been championed by artists and musicians.
Kal is a group of six Romani from Serbia who have risen out of the oppressive environment, combining musical elements of their native culture with contemporary touches like hip beats and ambient textures. Their self-titled debut is a musicologist's dream, a larger-than-life hodgepodge of Eastern European tangos and American rap with Middle Eastern trimmings. Sung mostly in Serbo-Croatian by front man Dragan Ristic, songs like "Obrenovac Boogie" and "Midnight Walk" are hyper-charged polkas that would go well with Brave Combo or Gogol Bordello. Rarely do cultural significance, top-notch playing and sheer escapist pleasure merge as gracefully.
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