Paprika Balkanicus & the Crooked Fiddle Band

Paprika Balkanicus & the Crooked Fiddle BandA night to remember!

For the evening’s folkloric entertainment, the Sydney Opera House donned a very different guise in order to create a more traditional Eastern European vibe. The Studio was no longer the understated, sophisticated deco themed theatre with which I am accustomed, but a late night café/wine bar decked out with tables and chairs and dance floor a plenty for the anticipated frivolity.

Kicking off the festivity was Australia’s own Crooked Fiddle Band. This band really is a national treasure and testament to the infinite talent that keeps manifesting in our backyard. They describe their music as chainsaw-folk, mashed in with gypsy and swamp metal bluegrass – not in that order – and it is. If I may take a moment to unleash my own creative licence on that list, I would like to add that distant echoes of the Celts and sounds of a Gaelic kind could also be heard reverberating through the layers of sound.

The uniqueness of the Crooked Fiddle Band is what makes their music so alluring. Featuring the astonishingly talented Jess Randall (violin), Gordon Wallace (bouzouki, guitar, mandolin), Mark Stevens (double bass, charango) and Joe Gould (drum kit, junk, traditional percussion, vocals), this group have re-invented folk music as it is known. Playing to a majority who had no inclination of who this colonial gypsy band were, the Crooked Fiddle Band charmed the audience into submission. And speaking of audience members, what became apparent after my first impression awe had subsided, was the demographic of the audience.

Not knowing entirely what to expect from a Paprika Balkanicus performance, I possessed only a vague idea from a musical point of view, I was surprised to ascertain that most of the small audience was made up of Serbians. Once the group of European minstrels took their places on the almost eye level platform, they asked the crowd who was from Serbia and to my astonishment the air was thick with arms. This fortuitous occurrence bode well for the rest of the concert. What transpired on and offstage was nothing short of being an electrifying, Serbian holiday celebration. Paprika Balkanicus is a new super-group flying the folk flag for an indigenous and largely anonymous code of music from their homelands in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The music imparted upon the crowd, with the dexterity of an elephant elegantly riding a unicycle atop a trapeze wire, comprised new arrangements of traditional songs from Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania. Most of which were familiar to the dancing and singing Serbian contingent present. With Bogdan Vacarescu on violin, Jozef ‘Teets’ Secnik on bass, Igor Bezget on guitar and Milos Milivojevic on accordion, some of the finest folk music from distant lands was heard on our home shore.

Spiced with paprika and seasoned with traditional singing, dancing, clapping, stamping, calling and money throwing, this performance honed my appreciation for this style of world music and made Paprika Balkanicus a band I will be seeing again!

Sydney Opera House and Top Shelf present
with Crooked Fiddle Band & DJ DubChaMan

Venue: The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Date: Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th October, 2009
Program: Doors - 8.15 / Uberlingua DJ DubChaMan - 8.15 / Crooked Fiddle Band - 8.30
Uberlingua DJ DubChaMan – 9.10 / Paprika Balkanicus – 9.30
Prices: $35 - $45
Bookings: 9250 7777 or

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