Balkan beat is a rowdy, raunchy concoction of a music genre, popularised by the efforts of acts like Goran Bregovic, Fanfare Ciocarlia and the well-known New-York based band Balkan Beat Box. Here in Denmark, it remains something of a stranger to the mainstream despite its increasing popularity in underground music circuits.
This may well change though, thanks to the efforts of a band cited as one of the greatest up-and-coming acts in Denmark by MTV, the critically-acclaimed Danish/Serbian outfit Tako Lako, who in their own words are “more than just another Balkan Beat band”.
The Copenhagen Post caught up with three of the band’s members – harmonicist Andreas Broby Jensen, bassist Philip Zubin Hormozi Køppen and multi-instrumentalist Malene Brask – for a quick chit-chat following the recent release of their eagerly awaited debut album, Through the Mud.
First and foremost, for all the people who don’t know you guys, who are Tako Lako?
Jensen: Tako Lako is a band that plays psychedelic gypsy beat; that’s what we choose to call what we do. It’s a pretty mashed-up type of music. We combine heavy beats with a psychedelic acoustic vibe.
Køppen: So far we’ve been known mainly for our live shows, up until releasing our debut album, Through the Mud.
What about the name Tako Lako. Where does it come from?
Jensen: (grins) I think it’s a bit of a coincidence. Tako Lako means ‘so easy’ in Serbian. We started out brainstorming with names. [Vocalist] Ognjen [Curcic] came up with it – it looks good written and maybe people can remember it. It also reflects our music. Our music is kind of complex, but we wanted to turn it into something that is comprehensible.
Køppen: It’s a name you cannot categorise, much like our band – it’s completely movable contextually, which reflects us as a band. Tako Lako has changed a lot. I mean Tako Lako can be everything.
Many people would call you a Balkan beat group, for the sake of classification at least. What are some of your main influences, if any, within Balkan Beat?
Jensen: Of course, at the beginning, we were very influenced by the Balkan wave, by Balkan beat. Bands like Go Gol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box, Shantel and so on. In time, however, we changed – particularly over the last two years. We found our inspiration from bands who are not related to the gypsy genre as such.
Køppen: The thing with Balkan is, we all adore it, but it’s not necessarily full of substance and meaning, especially lyrically. So we feel that we’ve added an extra element of meaning to the genre through Ognjen’s lyrics.
So what does Ognjen sing about typically?
Brask: There are some themes on our CD, particularly family traditions and coming from Serbia. Ognjen’s family comes from Serbia. He knows how it was in the war. He also knows what it means to be left out.
Køppen: It’s also about the past and the clash that one’s past represents for the future.
A bit like discovering one’s own identity perhaps?
Køppen: Exactly. In a way it’s about our own story as well. The battle that we’ve been through. We’ve been compared to other Balkan beat bands, but we’re trying to find our own place.
Your album Through the Mud has just dropped. Gaffa has given it five out of six stars. You must be pretty happy with it. You’ve been performing since 2008. What took you so long to make an album?
Jensen: Two years ago when we made our EP, we decided we’d wait a while before making an album. If you listen to the EP, you can tell that something is happening, but it’s not finished yet. It just took us a while to find a sound that we can all agree on.
Køppen: The thing is that we’re really busy as a live band. We’ve had a lot of gigs over the last few years and have been really busy despite us not having any recorded material (laughs).
Brask: At the start we almost only worked on our live performances because we just love being on stage. We really love it! We wanted to see how far it could take us, so that’s where our focus was, but we also had to find a bit more substance in our music. We needed time to become more of a unit.
What are you up to now then?
Køppen: We’ve got a busy schedule this autumn. The plan is to focus on the Danish market to see how far we can take Tako Lako, promoting the new album and so on. Next year we’ll head south, into the German market and of course the UK.
The full-length interview is available at www.mutukz.blogspot.com.