The spirit of a past age and the sounds of tomorrow

Carrying its audiences across the ocean to the smoky caf&

233;s of Bucharest and back in time to the Gypsy caravans of yesterday, Fishtank Ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

The Bay Area group plays a variety of instruments, including violin, saw, accordion, shamisen, flamenco guitar, contrabass and percussion.

Romanian folk music forms the bulk of the material, but it includes a healthy helping of flamenco, Swedish folk music, klezmer, gypsy jazz, other folk sources as well as original songs.

Fishtank Ensemble's debut album, "Super Raoul," was released in January 2006. The group is touring extensively this year to support its album and new concert DVD. It is also hard at work on a follow-up album due out later this year.

Fishtank Ensemble formed around the arrival of young fiddler Fabrice Martinez. Originally from France, Martinez spent the last seven years traveling around Europe in a mule-drawn caravan learning and playing folk music with the ensemble "Croque Mule." Much of that time was spent living in Romania, often in Romani (gypsy) villages.

A series of chance occurrences caused the members of what would become Fishtank Ensemble to meet in an Oakland, Calif., performance space called the Fishtank in spring 2005.

After three short weeks together, they recorded "Super Raoul" ("Raoul" is gypsy slang term for "cool"). The album, recorded live at the Fishtank and at the Cayuga Vault in Santa Cruz, Calif., showcases the band's diverse range of styles and influences.

In late 2005, the band took to the road, performing up and down the West Coast &

at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, Calif., Tangiers and the Knitting Factory in Los Angeles, Don Quixote's Music Hall in Santa Cruz, the Fez Ballroom in Portland and the Fiddlehaus in Seattle.

"For those in need of having their dervish whirled, the Bay Area's Fishtank Ensemble are the rompin', stompin' leaders of cross-pollinated Gypsy music," says Michael Simmons of LA Weekly. "El Douje is the master of 21st-century flamenco guitar, while Aaron Seeman is the king of punk accordion.

Audience eyes tend to focus on Ursula Knudson, not only for her virtuosic saw playing and a voice that sings in octaves not yet invented, but also for her sensual beauty. The mix includes a Japanese shamisen player and a rock-bottom upright bassist, and we have a young band that is one of the most thrilling live acts on the planet."

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Tickets are available at the Music Coop, Ashland.

See or call 488-7716. Log onto the band's Web site for a taste of its musical style.

Share This Story