robert zverina

sample works > writing > Kultur Shock Live at the Crocodile, April 3, 1999





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One of the things I love about music these days is the limitless combinations one hears; from African Salsa to Japanese Turntablists, few arenas of personal expression have benefitted from 20th century cultural diffusion--whether through benign telecommunications or violent political dislocation--more than music. Maybe that's because it is a universal language free of the barriers of meaning and interpretation. It crosses boundaries, often dissolving them in its passage.

Kultur Shock is often billed as "Gypsy Balkan Funk" for three good reasons: 1) At times they strut and rap with all the bad assitude of the Freaky Styley-era Red Hot Chili Peppers. 2) Their accents, traditional instruments, and multilingual playlist mark them as recent émigrés from the Balkans. 3) They are gypsies.

Maybe not Gypsies in the ethnic sense, but certainly in the spiritual sense. As gypsies move from country to country following good weather and opportunity, so does Kultur Shock visit a variety of musical genres from which they borrow without putting down roots. Funk, blues, rock, folk music from far off lands, and even a few licks of jazz, provided this night by a guest saxophonist, [that would be the lovely jessica lurie. --ed.] combine as seamlessly as a late night youth hostel conversation where no two people speak the same language but everyone laughs a lot anyway. They convey a sense of joy which can come only from having lived through sorrow, and tonight was especially joyous because they were celebrtating the release of their first CD, Live in Amerika.

The crowd was packed a lot tighter than when I saw them open for Plastic People of the Universe at Sit-n-Spin (that's to be expected when Krist Novoselic's Sweet 75 is the opening act), but people still found room to dance, which is what Kultur Shock's jumpin' tunes insist you do. The set careened from runaway locomotive rock to haunting folk ballads to their showstopping deconstructionist cover of "Wild Thing," which singer Gino Srdjan Yevdjevich announced would "be playing on MTV next week." The subtleties of sarcasm are hard to detect through an accent (English is Gino's 6th language) so I couldn't tell if he was serious or if this was just another ironic taunt in the spirit of the evening's introduction: "We are Kultur Shock and we're here to take your jobs."

While it's this attitude which makes Kultur Shock shows refreshingly confrontational, it's their infectious high spirits and energy which alternately get people dancing in circles holding hands or jumping up and down with their fists pounding the air. A carnival atmosphere surrounds this merry band of travelers who seem to be just passing through. They throw themselves into their music with a reckless abandon that doesn't care if there's anything left for the sunrise because by then we could all be dead. As long as you have a good time, drink some Slivovitz (in abundant supply this night) and above all dance, then they have succeeded. And tonight they did.

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First published at earpollution.com

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