Jaipur Kawa Brass Band

  • courtesy of Jonais Spenoy in association with Hameed Khan ‘Kawa’
  • Jaipur Kawa Brass Band

I’ve had a thing for brass-band music ever since I first came across the manic sound of Balkan music in the Emir Kusturica film Underground, where the soundtrack included high-octane pumpers from the great Macedonian band led by Boban Markovic. Before long I learned that one of the few positive by-products of colonialism was that just about every part of the world had a brass-brand tradition, where local musical styles had been adapted to the military instruments left behind by occupiers. Brass-band music first surfaced in India in the 1750s, and some of the most exciting and mind-melting brass music has emerged from the Rajasthan area, commonly considered to be the origin of the world’s Romani population. The Jaipur Kawa Brass Band hail from that region, and have become perhaps the best internationally known exponent of the tradition, touring the globe and making well-distributed recordings. Dance of the Cobra (Riverboat), their terrific new album arriving in U.S. stores on September 17, juggles Bollywood themes and traditional folk melodies, but despite the band’s global cache, it remains a thrillingly raw, direct recording, with the pummeling percussion section laying down ferocious grooves for a thick array of trumpets, euphoniums, and trombones. Sinuous lines played on clarinets and saxophones snake through the din, and here and there contrasting instrumental colors are provided by accordion, jaw harp, bagpipes, and sarangi, among others. After the jump you can check out today’s 12 O’Clock Track, the album opener “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja,” a slice of martial grooviness that could almost fit in during halftime at a college football game.