Bolshevik Rocks, You Gypsy Punks

gogol bordelloWould it be too easy to say that the music of Gogol Bordello is revolutionary? Maybe not if you’re a student of Russian history. Make that Ukranian history. Oh, and don’t forget to throw in Chernobyl. If it hadn’t been for that nuclear disaster and his family’s flight from the literal fallout, Eugene Hutz might still be living in the Ukraine. Instead, he ended up on New York’s Lower East Side.

Use the pause/stop buttons below if you wish to stop the Gogol Bordello background music clip, but you'll be missing all the fun.

As frontman for Gogol Bordello, Hutz has infused their music with influences from his Roma roots on his grandmother’s side with the eugene hutzindigenous music of the Carpathian and Ural mountains. Some have described it as gypsy punk with a dash of klezmer and ska, but I prefer Bolshevik rock. Any way you describe it, the sound is infectious and the effect on the audience is exuberant anarchy. It’s ironic that their live performances can sometimes seem like a drunken wedding celebration, because one of the band's first gigs was playing a wedding in Vermont where the family wanted gypsy music.

Before leaving the Ukraine, Hutz was a 13-year old listening to and liking the Parliaments-Funkadelics, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop and the Clash. When he arrived in New York, he soon teamed up with fiddler Sergey Ryabtzev and accordionist Yuri Lemeshev, but the band quickly morphed into a 9 member troupe of Russians, Israelis, an Ethiopian and an American.

The Gogol part of the name is a tribute to Nikolai Gogol, a melancholy (is there any other kind?) writer of Ukranian gogolettedescent or dissent, take your pick. The main significance was that everyone is the early band formation liked reading Gogol.

Their newest CD, Super Tantra, is their interpretation of Tarantella, the ritual music of Italy. If you’ve even seen whirling Dervishes perform, the Tarantella is equally frantic, but in the hands of Gogol Bordello, it’s another opportunity to merge the mystic with the sexual.

Listening to Gogol Bordello is one thing. Seeing them in person is quite another thing. More than just music, it is a complete cabaret act mixed with sheer pandemonium.

Check out the YouTube video below for some idea of what happens at a Gogol Bordello concert. But if this band of gypsy-Russian-Israeli-Ethiopian-Whatever immigrants is ever within 100 miles of where you are now, get up and go have the time of your life.



Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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