The evening’s events took place in the Main Space at Rich Mix and before the music started at around 9 o’clock old Russian sci-fi movies were shown on the large screen behind the stage and the audience were offered free cups of home-made borscht.
Violinist Flora Curzon and cellist Francesca Ter-Burg were the first act and they performed for just over forty-five minutes with an interlude (of which, later). They played ten pieces, most instrumentals, and were very eclectic in their material – including Serbian, Romanian, Greek and Gypsy tunes and songs. Francesca’s violin-work was something of an eye-opener – she played not only with a bow but for much of the time plucked the strings as if on a double-bass. Flora has a beautiful voice and did one solo vocal while she and Fran harmonized very well on the two other songs. Two of the pieces, one Serbian and one Gypsy, were about a young man who wanted to marry a beautiful young woman. They said they’d learnt many of the songs during a recent stay in Romania and Fran made an amusing slip when she announced one with, “We’d like to learn this song..” They went down well with the audience and the two regularly perform in London so try and catch them. They’re currently working on their debut album.
The interlude in their set consisted of Radio Gagarin mainstays Max and Ariadne doing a short performance art piece consisting of him reading sentences from Milan Djilas’s ‘Conversations with Stalin’ in English with Ariadne translating them into Russian. While they spoke, Fran and Flo provided a quiet musical accompaniment. It was all meant to be ironic but wasn’t especially amusing and didn’t go down too well with the audience. DJ Penny Metal played some Russian songs during the interlude before the next live act.
This was the six-piece electro-klezmer band, Tantz from Leeds. Tantz means dance and they certainly got the audience on the floor, starting with a slightly tentative group of four during the second tune and building to around thirty for the last. The audience also got a bit of a lesson as they went along, in some traditional Russian dances. Tantz specialize in Klezmer – Ashkenazi Jewish music often performed at weddings for anyone not acquainted with the term – and played, over the course of nearly an hour, ten tunes in all. The clarinettist and frontman played most of the solos but the violinist also traded them with him. Along with the drummer they had a percussionist who helped the beat with a tabla and tambourine, as well as a rock and roll tom tom. There were no vocals at all and many of their tunes made good use of pause – from which they gradually increased the tempo to turbo-speed, whipping the dancers into a whirling frenzy.
Tantz released their debut album ‘Voytek (The Bear) in October 2015 and it’s available on CD, MP3 and FLAC. They’re playing at the Green Note in Camden Town on 7 April so be there and take your dancing-shoes.
Radio Gagarin was part of Dash Arts’ ongoing cultural programme of new music, theatre art and dance at Rich Mix, London.