In the short hour available to them last Sunday evening at the Brisbane Festival’s Spiegeltent, award winning folk group, Mzaza, treated its fans to a joyous romp through some of their old favourites, a selection of pieces from their yet to be released new album, The Birth and Death of Stars, as well as covering songs by inimitable French performers, Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.

Mzaza is a six-piece band that owes its distinctive Balkan-French gypsy sound to the mixed Australian and European heritage of its members. It also owes something to West End where it was formed 15 years ago, when lead singer Pauline Maudy placed advertisements in local cafes seeking musicians who could help her realise her dream of forming a band. Accomplished violinist Greta Kelly was the first to respond and has remained with Mzaza and helped shape its sound since. Percussionist, Jordan Stamos, who has Greek heritage and joined the band about 12 years ago, also has links with West End through his family’s involvement with the iconic Three Monkey’s Café in Mollison Street.

The band has had a number of iterations, but for the past five years the line-up, with Pauline, Greta and Jordan, is, accordion player Ance Deksne who hails from the Latvia, Australian John Robertson on flamenco guitar, and Goran Gajic from Bosnia, who plays the double bass. The band took a few years to find its particular sound, Pauline said.

“The best way to learn, is to do different things and to play with different people”, Pauline told me.

Pauline was born in France and says she grew up listening to North African and Spanish music (her father is from Morocco). But she says her tastes and those of the band cross genres and one of her many contemporary influences was Mexican Canadian singer-songwriter Lhasa de Sela who died in 2010. She says it is the emotion of a song that speaks to her. Pauline pens a lot of the music with collaborators from the band and stressed that it is a collaborative process. She and bass player, Goran Gajic co-wrote four of their new songs with her.

While the band’s new album, to be released next year, is mainly in English and French, it includes songs that reflect Greek philosophy and mythology, and was recorded in Greece.  Pauline says several members of the band have an on-going relationship with Greece, and three of its members have studied at a musical school in Crete that specialises in Balkan and Middle Eastern music.

“We are inspired by traditional music”, she says, “and we are taking that and turning it into something else.”

Mzaza has taken its music ‘back’ to Europe and has a strong following in Germany and Austria. The group is planning another tour for mid-2020.

Pauline says that one of her interests is the evolution of music through migration, which she says is reflected in the respective journeys of the band’s members. And the band’s tours in Europe can be seen, she says, as part of the evolutionary cycle of song.

What’s next?

If you missed Mzaza at the Brisbane Festival, or if you want to see them again, there are plenty of opportunities coming up.

This coming Sunday 29th of September Pauline Maudy will be performing with guitarist/composer Anthony Garcia as part of the Cellar Series at Newstead House.

From Friday 18th to Sunday 20th of October, Pauline Maudy will be performing with Women in Voice 2019  at the Powerhouse.

15-year Celebrations

Mzaza is also planning its 15-year celebration for the band in a number of locations.

Sunday 10 November, 3pm Mount Tamborine Soiree

Friday 15 November, the Dust Temple, Currumbin – Tickets to be released soon

Saturday 16 November, Lismore – Tickets to be released soon

Sunday 17 November, The Regent Theatre, Murwillumbah – Tickets to be released soon

AND THE BIG ONE…

Sunday 1 December, What’s Golden at the Tivoli

For more on Mzaza see – www.mzaza.com

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