Nancy Hogg reports on Taraf de Haidouks - Cambridge Corn Exchange, 11 May 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Dubbed ‘The Real Gypsy Kings' and officially Johnny Depp's favourite band, Taraf de Haidouks rode into town for Friday night's offering for Cambridge's excellent Heart of The World festival.

Originally formed in 1989 Taraf de Haidouks hail from Romania, their name loosely translated meaning ‘band of outlaws'. Their distinctive take on works as diverse as Bartok and Mary Hopkins has awarded them global popularity appealing to a wide audience whilst maintaining their authentic Taraf sound. Indeed, with their constant touring and the hyperbole that surrounds each new release it seemed we were in for an amazing night and I for one wasn't (entirely) disappointed.

Their stage presence is both visually striking (with up to 12 musicians and vocalists on stage at one point) and the sound arresting. The music itself blends Turkish sounding dance tunes with traditional Romanian folk music. The band leap around the stage and the fiddle players bows blur with a manic fury. But somehow between these moments of intense passion the show seems strangely static. I wonder if maybe a balcony seat is too distant for an intimate a show as this. I also wonder if the woman in front of me is ever going to stop sending texts on her mobile.

After venturing downstairs I find a different atmosphere. Pockets of the crowd are dancing but even then the ever changing tempo means they fail to keep up their momentum. The band play for nearly too hours crafting moments of intense beauty with sublime musicianship. There is no doubt that the mix of musical styles on offer tonight produces an exhilarating cocktail but somehow at the end of it I am neither shaken nor stirred.

Writer: Nancy Hogg