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coverpic flag Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 22 - 08/08/98

Ida Kelarová
Old Gipsy Songs
Lotos

Similar in concept to Sarah MacLachlan's Lilith Fair but smaller in scope, Ida Kelarová's "International Performance Initiative" concentrates on the musical expression of women artists. Following successful series of concerts in the Spring of 1997, Ms. Kelarová organized another event last Fall, this time exclusively featuring Romany (Gipsy) music.

This live recording captures their performance at Prague's Acropolis Palace and in addition to Ida, it also features Bogoro, Vera Bílá & Kale and Karel Giña, a Gipsy viola player. (Bogoro is an eleven-member international women's chorus picked by Ms. Kelarová.)

The good news is the truly amazing music material. Ranging the whole gamut from painfully slow laments to incredibly carefree whirling dances, Romany music always carries an emotional message. Even without understanding the language, the listener is always aware these are not some generic background sounds. Unfortunately, Bogoro's eleven untrained female voices, all of them always singing in unison, no matter how enthusiastically, wear thin rather quickly. Just like Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares (The Bulgarian Women's Choir), they have only one expression - LOUD.

But luckily, there is nothing wrong with the rest of the performances. Both Ms. Kelarová and Ms. Bílá are big women with big, powerful voices. Ms. Kelarová's piano playing also blends well with Karel Giña's viola resulting in authentic cymbalom sounds.

After the driving Dzaf me dromeha, Bogoro takes over for an extended medley. Then Vera Bílá leads off Phenen odoj oro mora with bended and suspended pitches in an emotional violin imitation and into Ida's Imar aven, with its ending once again marred by Bogoro's inability to handle the accelerating rhythm. The same is also true for the next medleys with Bogoro chorus almost always behind the beat, despite Ms. Kelarová's enthusiastic piano pounding.

We don't get a break from them till L'ol'i ruza/Omizus and the following Ekapura. Both cuts feature emotional, yet controlled wailing especially in the slow parts, and accelerating syncopated duple meter (one, TWO, one, TWO), in the fast parts, all in minor keys. These two are the best cuts on the album, before Bogoro returns for a closing medley.

Ida Kelarová's contributions are enormous. Besides organizing, singing, conducting and playing in the concert, she also produced this live album and written the liner notes. I just wish she had featured more of herself and less of the enthusiastic, but amateurish Bogoro. Still, the emotional wallop packed by all the music carries through. And in these days of using music as "wallpaper", that is one quality that's becoming increasingly scarce.

Copyright © 1998 Ivan Sever e-mail address

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