Gogol Bordello's pulsing Mediterranean sound and sljivovica-drenched stage presence have found eager listeners from around the globe. Gogol centers around frontman Eugene Hütz, who first assembled a motley crew of Eastern European expats (himself a refugee from the Ukraine and the Chernobyl disaster) from various New York City bars and loft parties in the late '90s. The band burst upon the NYC scene with a drunken, all-night party, drawing on Hütz's itinerant background and love of rebel cultures.
In Gogol's world, manic punk energy meets tribal drums as a dub bass line thumps along and accordion lines flutter above like hummingbirds over the Danube. Typical of the downtrodden throughout history, the group flips a bleak existence into a party. And through his impassioned delivery and earthy accent, Hütz imparts a message of unity through music, striking a nerve.
But live is where Gogol Bordello must be experienced to really feel the true energy of the band. "Absolute insanity! Debauchery, big time!" bassist Thomas Gobena describes. "There's no reason why we can't party and actually say something important." Unity — among cultures, among music styles, no matter how apparently disparate — is the theme here. "You know, the makeup of the band itself — we all come from different parts of the world — and to meet together and make music, it sort of shows the people this is possible," he says. "Diversity is something that we celebrate."
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