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Katarina Gadjanski & Gypsy Fever Collective

 

Katarina Gadjanski & Gypsy Fever Collective will take you on an enchanting musical journey across former Yugoslavia, bringing you delightful traditional music from all over this region. 

 

Heartbroken by the fragmentation of Yugoslavia Katarina longed to once again reunite the disjointed regions of the country and heal the wounds of her homeland through the soulfulness of its traditional music.  She embarked upon mesmerising journey re-discovering beautifully archaic folk tunes of Yugoslavia - and the new GF Collective project was born as a result. Although born in peoples sorrow, the celebratory nature of the traditional folk music of Yugoslavia defies the difficult and marginal existence of the war-torn country, a country that now exists only in its soulful traditional music.

 

Along with Katarina’s Indian harmonium, many instruments Gypsy Fever play are not indigenous to former Yugoslavia. The idea was to introduce traditional instruments of other cultures and create a new sound, by adding Celtic whistles, Italian mandolin, Spanish cajon, Turkish yayli tanbur,  and the West African Djembe (as well as some classical instruments - such as bassoon and classical guitar). Katarina wanted to re-visit and re-imagine the old folk and gypsy tunes of Yugoslavia and give them a new life, integrating the musical influences of other traditions - which she came across during the 20 years of her life in the UK. 

 

Gypsy Fever Collective
at the Hootananny Brixton
reviewed by Depo Olukotun for CEEL
(Central and Eastern European London Life & News)

 

Gypsy Fever’s repertoire was essentially a tale of love and loss, summing up the story of the now defunct country in a nutshell. The stories were in the form of Bosnian, Dalmatian, Serbian or Vojvodinan folk serenades to young maidens andelements of nature. The songs were striking in their sorrow  like Zajdi Zajdi, which though mournfulwas a Macedonian wake-up call to a slumbering young girl. The reference to maidens was a recurrent theme – another song was Macedonsko devojce (Macedonian Maiden) – and an audience could be forgiven for thinking they’d fallen into a parallel universe of  Grimm’s fairy tales.

 

Though led by Gadjanski, Gypsy Fever seems more like a collective of musicians, with Gadjanski generously allowing the other talents in the ensemble to shine.

While the stars around her sparkled, Gadjanski crouched low on the floor, blissfully communing with her harmonium.

 

The irony of Gypsy Fever’s ‘Yugoslavia state of mind’ becomes more apparent with the fact that of the whole ensemble only Gadjanski, who is Serbian, is ex-Yugoslavian. More interesting still – as I gathered in my impromptu interview with her – none of the instruments they played were indigenous to ex-Yugoslavia.

Lori Secanska constantly hit the high melancholic notes that gave these folk songs of a remembered Yugoslavia their haunting character. The multi-instrumentalist Alex Paton added his voice to the list and came into his own in Oj Savice, a Croatian serenading of the river, which the ensemble delivered acappella-style to hypnotic effect. 

 

Along with Gadjanski’s Indian harmonium, there are Celtic whistles, Italian mandolins, Spanish cajons, the West African Jembe (or Djembe), as well as Secanska’s Slovakian dulcet tones. With its international members and multicultural instruments Gypsy Fever is truly World Music.

 

The ensemble, according to Gadjanski, is continuously in a state of flux, with a revolving door of members adding to the sense of a collective: the line up at the Hootananny Brixton was just one of its many incarnations. Gadjanski told of a group whose formation was inspired by travel and which to date, over five years,  has gone through an organic process of change. Just like the “ex-Yugoslavia” in the hearts of Gadjanski and her audience of fellow-nostalgics, Gypsy Fever gets reborn if and when required: as much a state mind as a musical ensemble. The launch of the latest reincarnation of the group is at the Jamboree, Lime House on the 8th March.

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The country that was Yugoslavia might not exist anymore but it lives on in the hearts of some.  Katarina Gadjanski and other “ex-Yugoslavians” who came to see her ensemble The Gypsy Fever Collective at the Hootananny Brixton proved the case, on what would have otherwise been just another Wednesday night. Gadjanski took a packed house on a nostalgic journey through the musical landscape of Former Yugoslavia,  and thanks to her informative commentary throughout her set I could almost believe it still existed.