Photos by Steven Philips, Story by Julianne Weingart
After this past installment of the West Philadelphia Orchestra’s Monthly Balkan Dance Party, I’m convinced many more of our daily activities should end with a loud, unanimous “hey!” or “opa!” Smiles would be rampant. And that was the case after the 4hr, 3-set dance hullabaloo West Philadelphia Orchestra put on at the decidedly loved and unique Underground Arts Thursday night. With a Balkan heart, and a thick West Philly accent, the Orchestra’s roots stretch from our stoops and backyards to the Balkan states. It’s hard to miss as most songs are in Bulgarian, Romanian, Serbian, and another language known as Roma-Gypsy, or Romani.
The sound is an anxious brass bee at times, stomping up frenzied frenetic dancing from the hive. It’s playful and moody, strong and anxious, elevating and soul quenching to the point where everyone could be jumping up and down around you and there you find yourself caught in a quiet flow, eyes closed and lifted off by the depth of the music’s voice. Next thing you know they’re pulling out Busta Rhymes covers! Utter evocative insanity, and so much fun. They do all this with everything from a baritone, trombone and clarinet, to trumpets, saxes and flutes.
What sets WPO apart from the rest (apart from the plethora of instruments) is their diversity of sounds, styles, gigs, and goals. Keep an eye peeled for their presence at future fests and your best friend’s wedding. They do it all, and always have fun doing it. They say so themselves HERE. The celebration is, if you can imagine, a thick cream, melting pot of an experience. With a Cuban on the snare, a Turk on the tapon, a Bulgarian singing and a slew of others from here and there on stage, a West Philly Orchestra party and the folks who make up the group are diverse, worldly, and in constant motion. Here’s to them continuing that movement ever upwards and taking us by the hands and letting us dance on stage with them again.