Page 1 of 1

Boban Markovic Orkestar

PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 12:05 am
by Gordon Neill
Events conspired to make me pretty grumpy before the event. Tickets that never got posted to me, a wasted lunchtime journey to get the replacements, and something approaching an airport security check at the door to make sure we weren’t smuggling in alcohol (I did point out to the nice man that my companion wasn’t Scottish). Even worse, I was coming out of possibly SOTW’s first case of Swine Flu and felt more like rolling around in warm mud than going anywhere near something noisy.

My grumpiness went a notch up when I saw how empty the venue was. The place was dead. Upstairs (with the best views and acoustics) was closed. I don’t expect everyone to like world music. But Edinburgh is a capital city, with cosmopolitan and artistic pretensions. Where was everyone? Staying at home to watch Celebrity Dishwashing or peeling an onion while listening to ‘Thriller’?

This was the Boban Markovic Orkestar, for goodness sakes. THE Boban Markovoc Orkestar. How often does Bob the Blower pass through these parts? What’s wrong with people? You have to wonder about our education system, increasingly geared towards passing exams but leaving people pig-ignorant about anything thicker than a paper certificate or that isn’t on TV. While this wasn’t Hamlet, it still struck me as something of a tragedy

Just as the support act was about to start, I counted 32 people. Or 27 people, not counting the support act. They were pleasant but not particularly memorable (the support act, not the 27 other people). But they could hardly have been inspired by the scattered audience. I liked all the elements of instrumentation and singer but, somehow, they managed to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. I’ve no idea who they were as the compere’s announcement managed to achieve that tricky mix of full-on volume with complete indecipherability. I think her day job is a railway station announcer (the compere, not the singer, who was perfectly fine).

Thankfully things got a bit busier by the time the Boban Markovic Orkestar came on, with maybe upwards of 300 swilling around. Even then, at least half the people there were imports. As a guy with a life membership of Scotland, this was embarrassing. It’s bad enough that nowadays we import most of our footballers and that I can foresee a time when we’ll also have to bring in most of our pop stars. But I was beginning to think that we’ll have import most of the audiences as well. Where were all the locals who were eager to see Amadou & Mariam or Orchestra Baobab earlier in the year? Couldn’t they have stretched their musical broad-mindedness a little farther? Or did they just assume that brass bands are a boar? My grumpiness and pandemic head cold were worsening.

And then it all changed. We’d earlier noticed a slightly odd smell in the hall. It must have been petrol vapour as, the instant that Boban and Marko hit the first note, the place exploded. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite as loud as this. I was flung fully ten feet backwards and would surely have been splattered against the far wall if I hadn’t managed to hold on to a roof support. They were loud. Very loud. It felt as though they’d clamped their trumpets hard against each of my ears and blown as hard as possible into my skull. In an instant, it cleared my head of mucous, pig thoughts, brain cells, and any doubts that this was going to be a great gig.

I found myself sheltering in the lee of the mixing desk, all red lights and slider controls. The bloke might as well have been tugging on a piece of string tied to a Jumbo jet. Quite why it was necessary to have any amplification involved at all, I’m not sure. With nine burly blokes blowing hard into various brass instruments, and another three hammering the life out of various drums, I’m pretty sure that the unplugged version would have been plenty loud.

But, for all my hogwash, this was a great gig. Brass bands a la rock and roll. True, I struggled to recognise any individual tunes (it’s not easy when your ears are bleeding). And, true, there wasn’t a single thing from ‘Boban I Marko’, my favourite album by them. But every song held my attention (not too surprising, given that my ears wre pinned to the wall). They were fantastic. And full of surprises. Marko played many (most?) of the solos, with Boban refusing to hog the limelight. After a series of 100 mph blasts, a belly dancer appeared, playing lead belly for a couple of songs and further emphasising the underlying Turkish tone to much of the music. And Boban sang on several numbers. I’d no idea the guy could sing, and sing very well.

What the audience lacked in numbers, they more than made up with in enthusiasm. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a world music gig where so many of the audience were wheeling around and dancing. And the average age was noticeably younger (if imported) than the typical world gigs that I’ve been to. This sense of fun was also apparent within the Orkestar, particularly when one of the percussionists was seemingly dragged into vocal duties.

As ever, I was worried about how my companion had taken all of this. In world music terms, she’s an innocent abroad. But she’s no mug. In earlier weeks, to my relief, she loved Orchestra Baobab. But, as we left the venue, she quietly stated that the Boban Markovic Orkestar was the best of the lot. She wasn’t wrong.