Happy Birthday Asphalt Tango!
In 2012 we did celebrate a dual anniversary: 15 years of producing tours and albums and a decade as the world's leading record label for Gypsy & Eastern music!
Our smashing birthday parties in Berlin and Cologne with Mahala Rai Banda and Zdob si Zdub as well as with Fanfare Ciocarlia in Potsdam are history, but don't worry, there's more to come: check all upcoming tourdates and don't miss the dates in your region!
When Henry Ernst and Helmut Neumann began their teenage wanderings in communist Romania in the 1980s they had no idea that they would one day take the Romany Gypsy music of that isolated, impoverished nation to the world. Ernst and Neumann were friends who grew up in Leipzig, East Germany. After the fall of communism both travelled widely yet kept returning to Romania – Neumann studied cymbalom in the Gypsy village of Clejani in Romania’s south west while Ernst ended up in the Gypsy village of Zece Prajini in north eastern Romania.
The connections they made in these isolated villages would go on to shape Asphalt Tango’s future. Ernst, having found Zece Prajini to be a hothouse of Gypsy brass music, assembled Fanfare Ciocarlia and launched Balkan brass on Western ears. Ernst and Neumann, aware that Berlin is both the gate to East Europe and Europe’s most radical cultural city, formed Asphalt Tango 1997 and have never looked back.
Touring Fanfare Ciocarlia lead Asphalt Tango to booking and managing other East European artists. By 2002, having produced three explosive Fanfare Ciocarlia albums for Berlin’s Piranha Records, they defied industry wisdom to launch Asphalt Tango as a label releasing CDs and DVDs, downloads and vinyl. The label debuted with Bulgarian Gypsy singer Jony Iliev’s Ma Maren Ma album in 2002. Since then they have released albums from Hungary’s Besh O Drom, Poland’s Motion Trio, Serbia’s Earth Wheel Sky Band and Kal (“the Gypsy Clash”), Russia’s Ersatz Musika (“post-rock explorers of the Soviet Union’s ruins”), Romania’s Oana Catalina Chitu (Bucharest tangos from the 1930s), Yugsolavia’s La Cherga (“multi-culti dance pop mischief”), Bulgaria’s Kottarashky (“Balkan ethno-electronica at its most inventive”) and Romania’s Mahala Rai Banda (“potent urban Gypsy dance music”). All Asphalt Tango releases feature high production values and superb packaging.
The 2004 DVD Fanfare Ciocarlia – The Story Of The Band is a deluxe package involving the documentary feature Iag Bari: Brass On Fire (follows Fanfare from village to Tokyo) and much extra material. The DVD was hailed by the UK’s Songlines magazine as “setting a new standard for world music DVDs.”
In 2005 Asphalt Tango Records began releasing Sounds From A Bygone Age . This acclaimed series of communist-era Romanian Gypsy recordings now stretches to 5 volumes and has made available musical treasure that would otherwise be lost to the world. In 2008 Asphalt Tango released the compilation Princes Amongst Men: Journeys With Gypsy Musicians – a CD that acted as a soundtrack to Garth Cartwright’s acclaimed book.
2007’s Gypsy Queens & Kings , featuring leading European Romany artists, is a brilliant celebration of Gypsy artistry that has wowed international audiences while the accompanying CD soundtrack is the label’s best-seller. In 2011 Fanfare Ciocarlia took on Serbia’s Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra in Balkan Brass Battle . This rip- roaring horn feast proved to be a hot ticket on the European festival circuit of 2011.
Working out of Berlin, Asphalt Tango keep looking for new adventures in music. 2012 sees the label issuing Zdob si Zdub ‘s album Basta Mafia! Moldovan rockers Zbob si Zdub made the finals of the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest and are already hugely popular in Russia and Romania. Also on the way are new albums from Oana Catalina Chitu and Kottarashky. Henry and Helmut and all at Asphalt Tango remain determined to present the very best Gypsy and Eastern music available.