Archive for September, 2012

Pink Martini – If the United Nations Had a House Band…

Today’s feature is unlike most of the artists I tend to highlight in my blog in a sense that the majority of Pink Martini‘s members are of a more “refined” background. Ivy League alumni, political involvement, and cultural exposure through travel and upbringing – a bit more formal than the usual underdog, independent artist I tend to favor on this blog.

Thanks to their timeless sound, ambiguously ethnic influences, and straight up musical talent, the proper folks of Pink Martini have proven their artistic integrity. Here is an excerpt from their biography:

“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure … if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”    – Thomas Lauderdale, bandleader/pianist

In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun… but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old- fashioned pop – and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks.


“All of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world,” says Lauderdale. “So inevitably, our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue.

We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America… the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world… composed of people of every country, every language, every religion.”

Featuring 10-12 musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand, South America and North America.

Their collaborative efforts with various other world renown artists is impressive to say the least and include: Jimmy Scott, Carol Channing, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, and Courtney Taylor Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, and many more.

As a fan of the old Standards, early 20th century Jazz, and the Big Band era in music, it’s nice to hear a sound that reflects those days of song and combines it with the fresh multi-cultural approach that has continued to make America a melting-pot of creativity for the last couple centuries.

To show you their diverse appeal, here are two videos showcasing their talents. The first is for the music, the second (Splendor in the Grass) is for sentimental value. Enjoy.

Una Notte a Napoli:

Splendor in the Grass:


Gogol Bordello – Gypsy Rock with a Social Mission

For many of the readers who are involved with the bellydance community, the name Gogol Bordello is probably one you are familiar with. For those of you who have yet to experience the music and essence that is GB, here is the band’s mission statement. It was hand-written on a crumpled piece of paper, so I had to be careful when rewriting these inspiring words:

Gogol Bordello Artist’s Statement:

Gogol Bordello’s task is to provoke audience out of post-modern aesthetic swamp onto a neo-optimistic communal movement towards new sources of authentic energy.

With acts of music, theatre, chaos and sorcery Gogol Bordello confronts the jaded and irony-diseased. Our treatment of traditional material is freewillous, but is not irony driven and thus real. Our theatre is chaotic and spontaneous and because of that is alarming and response provoking.

From where we stand it is clear that world’s cultures contain material for endless art-possibilities and new mind-stretching combinations, raw joy and survival energy. We chose to work with Gypsy, Cabaret and Punk traditions. It’s what we know and feel. And many more are possible that can make the beloved statement of post-modernism “everything is been done” sound as an intellectual error.

The troubadors of neo-authentics are comin as a trans-global Art syndicate family that has never been witnessed before. PARTY!


Originating from New York, the band has toured the world spreading their music like an infectious inter-continental virus through over-the-top theatrical stage shows and raw musical talent. The full band is comprised of cultural backgrounds hailing from Russia, Israel, China, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Trinidad and the United States. Having six full albums under their belt, their 2010 release Trans-continental Hustle was produced by mainstream music’s heavy-hitting producer, Rick Rubin, and subsequently released on his American Recordings.

Don’t let the crass, slurring vocals with a heavy accent turn you away; the band’s in-your-face approach may be intimidating but their message and musical abilities quickly transport you to melting-pot gathering that everyone with a positive and open mind is welcome to attend.

Here is one of their more creative music video endeavors for the song Pala Tute from the aforementioned album Trans-continental Hustle :

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