Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 11 - 09/16/97
Vera Bila & Kale
It wouldn't be surprising for a casual
listener to confuse this recording with 'The Best of Gal Costa. Only
after examining the album cover he would then realize instead of the
willowy Brazilian star, he's really listening to a 5 feet tall, 350
pound (150 cm, 150 kg) Gypsy from Southern Moravia!
While Ms. Bila may sound like a Brazilian
pop singer, her band Kale ('Black' in Romany language) sounds
remarkably like Gipsy Kings. And no wonder; this Romany band (as Gypsies
prefer to be called) also uses acoustic guitars and layered male vocals,
although the sound is often augmented by additional instruments.
After the deceptively simple opening cut,
Vera Bila (with Dezider Lucka) unleashes the hip-swaying Me la na
kamav (I Don't Want Her).
She went out with me only because I am a Romany,
But now I have a 'black' girl. She's one of us.
(In their booklet, all the Romany lyrics are reprinted in Czech)
Following the folksy Ara, more (Go Away) and the Brazilian
sounding Miro rom hin ternoro (My Husband Is Too Young) comes
the first slow tune, Ma dara (Don't Be Afraid). It features the
subdued singing by its author Jan Duzda and the 12 string guitar of
Desiderius Duzda. Unfortunately the flat ensemble singing spoils the
The same is also true for the next two
cuts, until Mulas mange miri daj (My Mother Passed Away). Here,
the ensemble is more in tune in supporting Desiderius Duzda's pensive
singing. Vera Bila's Ma rus, bo phares hin (Don't Be Upset, It's
If you only were patient for two years
Now you wouldn't be locked up for five,
leads into Mamo, merav... (I'm Dying, Mom...) Amazingly, Dezider
Lucka's soaring tenor sounds very much like Maria Bethania. The next few
numbers cover the jazz spectrum from the Django Reinhardt influenced
Dzal pani (Running Water) to Imar vera ilom (I Pledged
Already), where Emil Pupa Miko's singing could be confused for Djavan.
This album simply blew me away. It's
deceptively simple and sophisticated at the same time, very much like a
Henri Russeau painting. It's exotic yet homey, Central European yet
Latin American. Partially due to the deplorable attitude of many Czechs
towards Romanies, it's only ironic Vera Bila & Kale are better known in
France than in their own country. Yes, there are many intonation
problems in their ensemble singing. But there is also raw energy and
emotion here. They deserve a better exposure.
Copyright © 1997 Ivan Sever