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‘We electrify the music’

Peterborough: New York City band brings their unique, Balkan sound to the stage Saturday night

Tipsy Oxcart pulls from the Mediterranean folk tradition for their music, particularly Balkan music, both adaptations of existing folk tunes and their own compositions, but that’s about as traditional as they get.

“We don’t sound like anything else that you’d find at a traditional music festival, and we don’t play much for the folk dance scene,” said bassist Ayal Tsubery. “At the same time, we don’t use the ‘Balkan’ title artificially to appear exotic: Our sound is truly informed by real Balkan musical styles in an educated way.”

Tipsy Oxcart of New York City will be brining their unique style to the Harlow’s Pub stage on Saturday night.

The band name was picked by violinist Maya Shanker, inspired by a Bulgarian folk tale. “I originally thought of the name ‘Tipsy Oxcart’ while scrawling various — thankfully, jettisoned — options in the subway. I’d been perusing Bulgarian folk tales which are sometimes dark, sometimes comically anti-climactic but awesome. One particularly stuck and eventually inspired the name of the band.”

Jeremy Bloom, who plays the accordion for the band, noted that band members each have diverse musical backgrounds, and while Balkan folk is the base of their songs, the band’s other influences, including jazz and funk or mariachi, also creep in around the edges, lending a flavor that isn’t shared by other Balkan bands that adhere to the traditional sound of folk music.

Most of the band members got into music at a young age, with Bloom begging for a violin before he hit the double digits; drummer Dani Danor growing up in a house with both brothers playing instruments; and clarinetist and saxophonist Connell Thompson learning his craft for the high school marching band. From those classical beginnings, the band began to pick up influences, with Thompson rebelling from marching band to pick up ska, Danor influenced by the grunge rock and classical repertoire of his brothers, and jazz, funk and hip hop all dashed in as well. At the same time, their Balkan influences work to set the band apart from other dance bands that are strictly using contemporary sounds.

“We’re an international band: Two Israelis, one grew up in Singapore, one Brooklynite and a New Hampshire carrot-top. We electrify the music and take it from a polite folk genre into an outrageous funky delight. Since we all come from different backgrounds, we also all physically look very different, which I think is interesting to watch,” said Danor.

“There are some bands that are interested in creating a perfect, authentic sound. We don’t do that,” said Bloom. “We’re interested in the folk tradition, and we all try to educate ourselves in it, but we all come fro different backgrounds and those are reflected in our music. We’re as true to our jazz and funk as learning the Balkan style. It’s a hybrid. I think the band embodies different communities and backgrounds meshing together. It’s like speaking a bunch of different languages and still being able to translate for each other.”

“Tipsy Oxcart is, well, super different from many things. It’s not a straight-up rock band, but it grooves hard. It’s not a traditional folk band, but maintains a lot of flavor and influences,” said Shanker. “I feel like we’ve all developed our own sounds on our instruments in a way that’s specific to Tipsy Oxcart, which makes it special.”

Most of their songs are a result of that larger musical perspective. Usually, one band member will select a traditional tune, or come in with their own melody, and the entire band will collaborate on the arrangement of the new song, Bloom noted, so that the music comes together organically.

“When I create a tune, I usually develop a drum groove that sets the vibe of the song, then come up with a melody to fit it, and then figure out bass and then chords,” said Thompson. “Once the mock-up is done, I get down to my underwear and dance test it in my living room for anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. If it passes, I bring it to the band and we go from there.”

Tipsy Oxcart will be at Harlow’s Peterborough on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for those 21 and older.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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