Music Programme



Having ripped up stages across the USA and Europe, Romanian roots rockers Mahala Rai Banda are to blast stages all over the world with their fierce Gypsy funk. The 11-piece brass band’s blend of hard Balkan brass with minor key violin & accordion melodies has turned them into a force to be reckoned with. Having taken shape on the mean streets of Bucharest, Mahala Rai Banda’s sound is 21st century Gypsy music: rooted in tradition but with hints of dub and soul, Turkish and Arabic assimilated into their roaring dance mix. When Mahala Rai Banda hit the stage ancient Gypsy campfire tunes blend with the raucous din of Balkan Mafia clubs.


Mahala Rai Banda’s unique Eastern groove evolved in the mahalas (Gypsy ghettoes) on the outskirts of Bucharest, Romania’s ruined capital city. In these mahalas musicians from the southern village of Clejani (home to legendary Gypsy orchestra Taraf De Haidouks) jammed with brass musicians from the Moldavian village of Zeci Prajine (home to Balkan brass blasters Fanfare Ciocarlia). Quickly, they became the hottest weddings and parties band in Bucharest. As Romanian Gypsies traveled into Western Europe the band’s legend spread.


Initially, Mahala Rai Banda’s fame existed on tapes passed around Balkan music scenes in Berlin and Brussels, Barcelona and Vienna. These tapes captured raucous jam sessions that lasted deep into the Transylvanian night and showcased a fierce Gypsy folk-funk taking shape. Their acclaimed 2005 debut album shot them from shantytown to the Borat soundtrack (with ‘Mahalageasca’). International acclaim followed and MRB have since graced such international events as Summerstage NYC, Montreal Pop festival or Big Chill and Womad UK.


In 2009 Mahala Rai Banda released Ghetto Blasters. Here the spirit of Augustus Pablo drifted from Kingston to Bucharest and the toughest horns since The Bo-Keys proved Romanian funk has fangs. On this album, Mahala Rai Banda cut “Balkan Reggae”, a lovely, swinging instrumental that showed how Eastern cymbals, violins, accordions and trumpets could embrace a very Caribbean flavour.


Reggae in Romania? Few imagined that the Jamaican sound could penetrate so far East or that a Gypsy band could play it with such feel. Yet everyone who heard Balkan Reggae loved it and Reggae DJs across Europe began dropping the tune in their sets. As 2012 signaled the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence Mahala Rai Banda reached out to their Jamaican brethren and requested Dub remixes on Balkan Reggae.


The response was strong. Leading the charge was Mad Professor – the legendary, London-based Jamaican producer who has gone toe-to-toe with Lee Perry and Massive Attack amongst many others – followed by Nick Manasseh (feat. dread DJ Gregory Fabulous), Jstar, G-Vibes (feat. acclaimed Brixton Blues man Errol Linton), Vibronics, Kanka and Asphalt Tango artists La Cherga and Koby Israelite.


“Balkan Reggae” – The Dub Mixes is the first ever album where Balkan Gypsy music meets the Dreads uptown! As they like to shout over a hot mix in Trenchtown: “Irie!”