Shantel // Disko Partizani!
After pioneering the concept of Balkan clubbing with his now-legendary Bucovina Club parties and albums, Shantel moves on to the next level and releases Disko Partizani! (his first solo album in seven years), which lays the foundations for an innovative new brand of pop music. This is the sound of new Europe, centered in the middle of our old continent, but incorporating vibrant influences from the emerging new frontier which stretches all the way to Mitteleuropa, the south east, Greece, Turkey and beyond… The album features great performances by a host of musicians from southeast Europe and by Shantel himself, who also appears on lead vocals, gracing several tracks with an unexpected, elegant deadpan delivery.
Shantel and the Balkan music revolution
With their organic mix of South-European & Balkan music and club-friendly electronics, Shantel's Bucovina Club nights revolutionized the music scene and became an instant success: tired of dancing over and over again to the sound of usual club fodder, audiences of all ages and origins were conquered by the vitality and excitement of these electro/Balkan mixtures. Shantel started playing clubs, parties and rock festivals around the world, and inevitably drove crowds to ecstatic bliss. We're not talking about innocuous, politically-correct, silly folk dance classes here: whether he Djs or plays live with a band, Shantel has the knack for turning any venue into a vortex of pure euphoria, where people end up stage-diving, belly dancing, and generally going mad… In other words, he's simply brought the Balkans to clubland, and his work soon inspired a whole generation of DJs who turned away from house, techno or breakbeats to embrace this new sound. The nail was further hit on the head with Shantel's standard-setting remixes of tracks by the likes of Taraf de Haïdouks (created for Crammed's Electric Gypsyland remix series which, coincidentally, was initiated around the same time) and as co-producer of Mahala Raï Banda’s debut album, as well as a handful of his own, seminal compositions (included in the Bucovina Club albums). This in turn most probably played a part in the birth of these live bands (sometimes dubbed 'Balkan Rock' or Gypsy Punk') which integrate Balkan, rock, hip hop & reggae elements.
Disko Partizani! sees Shantel successfully synthesizing his experiences as a producer, musician and DJ to create catchy, energetic and festive pop songs, full of hooks and surprises. Eastern European elements are adopted with real respect for their cultural roots, and then fused and transformed into a new form of urban music which works as an interface between east and west. Venerable melodies and rhythms – some of them dating back to the Byzantine Empire – are being rejuvenated, and used as a new source of inspiration for modern, trans-European pop, a welcome alternative to some of the more worn-out Anglo-Saxon musical models… But, beyond these underlying concepts, this is first and foremost an album of pure, unadulterated fun.
Shantel conceived these songs while travelling, and found inspiration in the most unlikely locations: a railroad station in Romania, a highway stop in Greece, an airport terminal in Istanbul, an Arabic Café in Tel-Aviv, a taxi stand in Sofia, the back seat in a Mercedes Benz belonging to a Macedonian gypsy king, backstages in London, Paris and Rio de Janeiro.
One year later, Shantel presented the blueprint for Disko Partizani to his musician friends. He was welcomed with simultaneous reactions of joy and dismay: "What is that? Belly dance meets hip hop, electronica-fuelled Balkan stompers, klezmer reggae rock’n’roll tunes? Have you gone mad?" Shantel needed brave and skilled warriors to bring the concept to fruition. He brought together a rich cast of instrumentalists and singers to complement the duo he forms with his studio partner Marcus Darius (who plays drums, while Shantel sings, programs, plays guitar, percussion and keyboards). These numerous and distinguished guests include Serbian singer Vesna Petkovic, trumpeter Marko Markovic (the son and Nr 1 sideman of Serbian brass music king Boban Markovic, Bulgarian clarinettist Filip Simeonov (from Taraf de Haidouks), Shantel's old Greek friend, Thessaloniki-based singer and composer Jannis Karis, François Castiello, who plays accordion with famous French band Bratsch, Canadian singer Brenna MacCrimmon, who achieved cult status in Istanbul through Fatih Akin's "Crossing the Bridge" film, Bulgarian saxophonist Vladimir Karparov, Sashko Wladigeroff with his biting trumpet sound, Izmir-based violinist Costas Ramos, keyboardist Marcus Schumacher (from the band Äl Jawala), Ruth Maria Renner aka Miss Platnum, a Berlin-based Romanian r’n’b vocalist, Viennese musicians Kurt Bauer and Lothar Lässer, who have frequently been seen playing violin and accordion at Shantel’s side on stages all over the world, members of Tel Aviv's Balkan surf rock band Boom Pam, Ukrainian DJ/vocalist Yuriy Gurzhy (of Russendisko fame), trumpeter Roy Paci (Manu Chao), London bass player Ken Taylor, Berlin reggae/dancehall queen Mantiz… the list is as long as it is colourful, and a linguistic kaleidoscope prevailed during the studio session. This all reflects the style and sound of this album: where else can you hear a song in both Turkish and Greek? Which other record contains vocals in English, Romanian, Serbian, Rom (Gypsy), as well as an ode to "gypsyfication" (Tsiganizatsia, tsiganizatsia, come on baby, this is what you need, as the chorus of the title track goes…)?
Originally a respected electronic music producer (he released a.o. two albums on Studio K7 in the late 90s), Shantel became interested in East European music when he undertook a trip to the Bucovina region -now split between Ukraine and Romania - in search of family roots (his mother's family comes from there), which led to the creation of the Bucovina Club nights and albums. What he had previously heard on records as an exotic sound from a faraway place suddenly became physically tangible: wild brass ensembles, singers with soulful voices, melancholy bluesy ballads and instrumental melodies, the frenzied dances of Kolo, Hora and Cocek (a Balkan variation on belly dancing).
The cosmopolitan cultural and ethnic diversity of pre-war Bucovina also became an important source of inspiration for Shantel, whose imagination was fired by the history of his grandmother's hometown Czernovitz, the old capital of Bucovina, a city of great poets and thinkers such as Rose Ausländer, Paul Celan and Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, of famous musicians such as the German-Jewish tenor Josef Schmidt ("the Caruso of the East"). Although the subsequent damage caused by Nazi occupation and Stalinism have irrevocably destroyed what was once a unique multicultural atmosphere, there is still an enormous interest there in nurturing those roots. By chance, a copy of the Bucovina Club CD managed to find its way to Bucovina. The locals were astonished to discover that a musician and DJ living so far away would draw upon these traditions. Eventually, in November 2004, there was a memorable homecoming. At the invitation of the Mayor of Czernovitz, during the heady Ukrainian autumn of the Orange Revolution, Shantel performed with the Jewish Orchestra of Czernovitz and musicians of the Mahala Rai Banda on the former Austria Square to a crowd of ten thousand young people, some of whom had brought along their orange banners.
There is another inspiration that links Shantel’s previous life as a producer of electronica with the Gypsies who, with their invaluable contribution to the music of the Balkans, probably invented the art of borrowing. On their journeys through many lands and cultures, they adopted a hook line here, a rhythm there, picking up fragments of melodies and choruses along the way, and putting them together to create something entirely their own. Towards the end of the twentieth century, 'electronic borrowing' (commonly known as 'sampling') became the basic production method of the various schools of electronica and dance music.
The story so far
Respectively released in 2003 and 2005, Shantel's Bucovina Club albums have earned him several awards (including a BBC World Music Award). They included tracks by leading Balkan bands, as well as exclusive remixes and original tracks by Shantel.
Shantel has produced albums by several other artists, including Mahala Rai Banda and Boom Pam. His remix of Mahala Rai Banda's Mahalageasca was prominently used in the soundtrack of the Borat movie.
Shantel has written the original music for The Edge Of Heaven, the new Fatih Akin movie which won an award at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
He has performed at major festivals and clubs across Europe, and has Bucovina Club residencies in Istanbul, Rome, Vienna, Zürich as well as several German cities.
Essay Recordings (Shantel's label) and Crammed have joined forces for the release of Disko Partizani!, which will come out through Crammed worldwide, except in the following countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Japan.
Shantel will be extensively touring with the Disko Partizani project, accompanied by his Bucovina Club Orkestar, a full 8-piece band.
02 Disko Partizani
03 Koupes - I'll smash glasses
04 Disco Boy
06 Fige Ki Ase Me
09 Andante Levante
10 Immigrant Child
11 The Veil
12 Dubstar Bugarskji
13 Marko i Shantel
14 Donna Diaspora