There seem to be pockets of European traditional music that just don't see much international attention. Speak of Galician traditions, or Bulgarian traditions, and many of us can bring to mind favorite bands and tidbits of information, but speak of Swiss or Dutch traditions and it may be a bit harder. This is certainly the case with Belgian traditional music today. Despite the efforts of young bands like MANdolinMAN, it's still hard to put a finger on what Belgian folk music really is, and even Belgian music luminaries like Jacques Brel are thought of as more French than anything else (I myself didn't even know Brel was Belgian but assumed he was from France!). Thank goodness then for young band Wör, who have been working through archival manuscripts and old sources to bring new life to the old soul of Flemish folk dance tunes. Their new album, Back to the 1780's, does pretty much exactly what it says: goes back to the 18th century for old tunes. But there's great life in these tunes, and the band knows how to bring that out. Taking cues from the Danish folk revival and other similar revivals, Wör uses a backbone of Irish and Celtic influenced accompaniment (especially in Jeroen Knapen's guitar, but also in the instrumental arrangements) to place the tunes in a contemporary setting. The instrumental combo of Pieterjan Van Kerckhoven, fiddler Naomi Vercauteren, and accordionist Bert Ruymbeek, is especially powerful, and I was surprised how much the baritone and soprano sax playing of Fabio Di Meo lent to the group. But the true stars here are the tunes, which sparkle with a mischevious life after the dust of two centuries is blown off them. Here's hoping that Flemish music and Belgian music in general will take a deserved place at the table to much-loved European folk music traditions.


AuthorKith Folk