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ludo luda
Csókolom
Ludo Luda (Fools Fancy)
Arhoolie

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Playing the traditional folk music of the Greater Transylvania region, Csókolom perform with an urgency that belies any thought of dredging up the past. Led by Yugoslav-born violinist and singer Anti von Klewitz, this four-piece (rounded out by Sander Hoving on kontra, Anneke Frankenberg on violin and Gregor Schäfer on double bass) roams central Europe on its second album, collecting melodies from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and points further afield.

More than half of the songs here -- which range from "L'Infidèle" (a musette waltz) to "Gankino Horo" (a Bulgarian dance) -- were recorded live in Amsterdam and Germany at the end of last year. This combination of live and studio tracks could easily lead to a recording of uneven quality -- but the live sound is pristine without sacrificing the energy the band obviously gets from playing in front of an audience. Strikingly rhythmic, this is social music, made for dancing and for reinforcing the events of the community.

Ludo Luda boasts a range that's not limited by either geography or subject: children's rhymes, folk songs, love songs, Gypsy songs and wedding dances are all encompassed with a sure grasp of the songs' intent. "Hajnali (Morning Song)" (a "Hungarian lamento to be sung and played at dawn after a feast") begins as a sedate, even slightly mournful tune. But this lamento doesn't stay sad for long, as the rising sun lifts the spirits of the depleted revelers along with a buoyant melody. The medley "Pink Panther Theme/Pink Legényes/Legényes A Minor" uses Henry Mancini's famous score as a jumping off point, and it's a testament to Csókolom's powers of interpretation that the inclusion makes perfect musical sense; the Pink Panther theme introduces the song, and elements of it reappear in the second and third parts of the medley, without seeming like a novelty.

Von Klewitz's agreeable voice wraps itself around a range of languages that the CD booklet helpfully translates, although the poetry of these folk songs has undoubtedly been compromised in the process. Ludo Luda doesn't quite justify its lengthy 72 minutes, and a bit of judicious editing could have placed even more of an emphasis on the album's highlights. But the band moves easily from strength to strength, with a virtuosity that's never flashy and material that connects the emotional life of the past and the present.

-- Ryan Tranquilla
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