Gogol Bordello In Russia and Eastern Europe

The New York gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello is beginning to making it big in the native land of some of its founders. A profile in The Moscow Times:

Context_2The band — which sings in English, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Romany (the language of the Roma, or Gypsies) — first broke into English-speaking and Spanish-speaking audiences before reaching Italy and Scandinavia. Russian audiences came last, Hutz said.

“I don’t know why the Russian audience … happened to be basically almost the latest, the last one to come in to the table. I think they were just too busy listening to Leningrad [the highly popular ska-punk band from St. Petersburg] or something like that.”

Despite the popularity of Gogol Bordello among New York bohemians — the band got rave reviews in the likes of the Village Voice — Hutz reckons it was the British press that set the ball rolling internationally, ultimately bringing them to the attention of Russian promoters…

Besides playing Gypsy-inspired music, Hutz works with the nonprofit organization Voice of Roma, which supports Romany culture and struggles against discrimination.

“Basically, I’m doing what I’ve been doing for a long time,” he said. “I’ve been collecting Gypsy culture and music, [I’ve] been in touch with Gypsy writers all over the world. But after we played in America on [national] television, in like the Jimmy Kimmel show in Los Angeles, and I sang in Romany, in our language, and we had a crazy resonance with Romany from Canada and the States and Europe, I got so many e-mails!

“Believe it or not, but we were the first band who ever sang in Romany on national television! So it was a really big deal, actually, for the Romany community. In a certain respect, as unorthodox as I am — why on earth I was asked to represent it? And I am very proud to represent that.

“There’s much work to be done about that. Discrimination against Roma is very present, it’s a massive issue. It’s very big in Ukraine, it’s actually pretty devastating.”