I bumped into an old friend on the street the other day. He told me he was going to see Gogol Bordello at the Astoria (tonight). “Who are Gogol Bordello?” I asked. He told me that they were a Ukrainian gypsy punk band – big in Ukraine apparently. Now this may be the case, I thought, but surely there aren’t that enough Ukrainians in London who are into this band to fill the Astoria.
Then, oddly enough, when I logged on for my weekly listen to my favourite radio show – the Blue Room on Radio 1 – I found that Rob da Bank’s ‘Blue Room Tune’ for March is Gogol Bordello’s Start Wearing Purple. And what a riot it is – all punk enengy, shouting and (something I always think there’s not enough of in pop music) a big cheesy accordion sound. Gypsy punk indeed.
But then further research revealed that not just a dodgy genre name – Gypsy Punk is actually the name of GB’s last album. And they’re not from Ukraine – they’re from New York – led by charismatic, incredibly moustachioed Ukrainian frontman Eugene Hutz. Hutz is also an actor – he appeared in Elijah Wood in last year’s minor art-house flick Everything is Illuminated. Apparently they’re a riot live too. So said Metro this morning. Maybe there will be more than just Ukrainians and my mate at the gig tonight then. And apparently Jo Whiley has put money on them being future chart stars, but I don't know if that's a predictor of success or not...
Anyway, ‘Start Wearing Purple’ made me think of the movies of bonkers Bosnian film director Emir Kusturica. The three that I’ve seen – Underground, Black Cat White Cat and Life is a Miracle – have all strongly featured boisterous gypsy music, usually accompanied by much drinking and associated carnage. Kusturica likes to style himself as a gypsy punk with his band the No Smoking Orchestra, who also play on his film soundtracks. Compared to Hutz and Co, he’s doesn't really sound punk, but Emir could probably outdo them in the drinking stakes.
I’d recommend all of the above movies, particularly Life is a Miracle. The critics didn’t really like it, but praised Underground (a Cannes Palm d’Or winner) which I like the least. Oh well, what do they know?
Download: Start Wearing Purple by Gogol Bordello
Download: Wanted Man by The No Smoking Orchestra
Buy Gypsy Punks here. Buy No Smoking Orchestra stuff here, and you could even get one of Kusturica's films on DVD here.