Traditional Music of The Balkans
The Balkans make up a large area in Southeast Europe with a rich history and culture. The Balkan peninsula is bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the Northwest, the Ionian Sea to the Southwest, Aegean Sea and Turkish straits to the Southeast and the Black Sea to the East. The Northern border is variously defined. Over the centuries there have been numerous empires (Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Austria-Hungarian, etc.) that have influenced this part of the world as well as the music and culture of the Romani people.
We play songs from Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and other countries in the Balkans. A burning fast Bulgarian Kopanitsa in 11/8, a Romanian Cocek groove, traditional Serbian music often heard at the annual brass band festival, GUCA! Then we perform some of our own pieces that are inspired by this music
One of our favorite things to do is collaborate, rehearse and perform with students! We can teach composition and arranging of our music & traditional songs or work with an ensemble on their music. We also can break off into groups and lead sectionals.
At St. Lawerence University we worked with their Improv Lab (~20 students with a variety of instruments). This piece was written that afternoon with an improvised arrangement.
At Babson College we put on a Fat Tuesday concert with the Babson Music Collective at Sorensen Theater in Wellesley, MA. The students joined in at the end of our concert playing Traditional and modern Balkan and New Orleans music.
We discuss techniques to come up with ideas and inspire creativity. Below are a few examples of handouts we use to show the process of working through chords and coming up with your own ideas that can help in improvisation.
Composing and Arranging
The music of Cocek! Brass Band is composed by trumpet player and bandleader, Sam Dechenne and is inspired by different musical traditions from all over the world. We listen, perform and discuss traditional and modern Balkan/Jazz music and study some of the different techniques that are used in our own compositions. Musical story arcs and arranging ideas can be used in almost any style of music and at any level and go a long way in setting up an improviser to find creativity and musical ideas. We work with students to flex their own compositional muscle and find their voice in music.