Trans Balkan Express
Cat.-No.: AYCD 02
Ladies and gentlemen: All on board the Trans Balkan Express! Make sure you are seated; you'll enjoy a big trip...
While Kraftwerk was chugging on their train through pre 1989 Europe, O.M.F.O. travels from the West to the East, from Amsterdam via Berlin to the hinterlands of the EU, the Carpates, the Black Sea right into the front garden of Asia. While crashing frontiers, bridging gaps, building connections, he carries in his luggage Jamaican dub techniques and electronic equipment, with which O.M.F.O. elegantly blends the musical spice of the South Eastern European provinces with the club culture of the West.
Our Man From Odessa (O.M.F.O.) is a border crosser himself. Raised in the harbour town of Odessa (Ukraine), German Popov first studied radio communication. In 1989 he immigrated to Amsterdam to intensify his musical formation. At first he engaged himself in various musical projects. Popov is an ardent collector of traditional music instruments from different parts of the world, especially from former Soviet republics and their satellite states, and knows how to play them all. Moreover he is a highly skilled overtone singer. Consequently, he was invited to play and sing with many bands and musicians around the Amsterdam circuit. 1994 German released on Oreade Music his first album "Isiric". Shortly after he started Sputnik, a band solely consisting of Russian emigrants, for which he wrote music, earning a few guilders. In the meantime, German Popov was travelling the world as a DJ and worked as a furniture salesman, a model, a travel guide and built instruments. As O.M.F.O. he released various 12" and 7" singles on Kidnap records, but most of all on his Solaris-Project which had an exotic, electronic Easy Listening sound. Later he joined the world famous female throat singer Sainkho from Southern Sibiria, with which he collaborated on various albums, as well as an instrumentalist on tour.
And now German Popov presents with "Trans Balkan Express" fourteen new tracks in an intercultural transition modus on Berlin's Essay Recordings. The album features music between the "East" and the "West", between space and a Balkan wedding, speeded up by electronic sound engineering, cooled by a relaxed versatility, happily ignoring musical boundaries of any kind. "Trans Balkan Express" is where modernism dances with traditions, the "old" Europe flows into the "new". On the beautiful Trans Balkan trip, Popov, who only wears custom-made-suits, exposes many of his talents and passions: Laptop producing, dub reggae, flutes and string instruments from his exotic collection, as well as his affinity for cosmonautic lyricism and psycho active Absinth.
Let's all get on board and marvel, which exciting new sounds, revolutionary musical combinations there are to explore between the occident and the tundra. And let O.M.F.O. be our guide.
OMFO is German Popov's stage name. He was born in 1966 in the port city of Odessa, USSR. Growing up in the biggest country in the world and being brainwashed by communist propaganda he proudly marched through the glory and misery of Soviet reality until all this came to an end. Unable to endure the pain inflicted by Perestroika G. Popov headed for the west, arriving in multicultural Amsterdam - a city associated with tolerant cannabis policy and frivolous behaviour. That was where G. Popov rediscovered the rich cultural inheritance that was left to him by the past. Utopian ideology, the moral and cultural decay of the Brezhnev era, the pathos of space exploration and ethnic diversity: all this made him ready to become OMFO. G. Popov began his musical career playing gangster ballads and prison epics in caviar restaurants and fugitive hangouts together with Alec Kopyt. Taking advantage of world music lovers they played under the name The Children of Lieutenant Schmidt. After a while when this became no longer tenable G. Popov shifted his focus of interest towards space and cosmonauts. Jointly with a group of Soviet expatriates he created a band called Sputnik. Noticed by the adepts of electronic extravaganza Sputnik soon released their only album The Favorite Songs of Soviet Cosmonauts. While the band was beeping around glamorous clubs and private parties G. Popov explored another musical path - folklore. During one of his solo performances he was approached by a producer of a major Dutch new age label, who offered him his studio to make a recording. Shortly after, Oreade Music released an album under the mysterious name Isiric. To G. Popov's surprise this work was classified by the label as Worlds Healing Music. In contradiction to this classification, the album continues to inspire young intellectuals to experiment with psychedelic substances all over the former USSR. The secret of its popularity hides behind the Russian lyrics of exotic Siberian and Central Asian melodies, skilfully played on weird instruments and sung with quaint vocal techniques. Probably this was when G. Popov fully realized the inseparable unity of ethnic wisdom and electronics as a true folklore of the 21st century.
As the Nineties were wrapping up their legacy OMFO focused on his solo project Our Man from Odessa, collaborating with various electronic labels. Most of his early works were released on the small Dutch label Kidnap, founded and run by members of the ex-Soviet diaspora. During this period he also collaborated with a controversial diva from the remote republic of Tuva – Sainkho Namchilak - travelling the world and playing at big international venues.
As the new millennium kicked in, G. Popov and his friends found a new platform for their futuristic vision of sound and music. This is how Solaris was born. Presented not as record label, but as an art lab, this project was clearly inspired by Russian constructivism and utopian romanticism. The glamorous alias Our Man from Odessa gradually turns into the more succinct and enigmatic OMFO. During this period, OMFO comes into creative contact with projects and artists such as Metamatics, Aavikoo, Jimpster, CiM and Felix Kubin. All these names appeared on Solaris' releases such as Aelita, Cheap Electric Paradise and Omnipresence. Music distributors and record shop owners still treat these impeccably designed albums as collector's items. A few years ago OMFO was contacted by Vladimir Lomberg – a like-minded person who was invisibly present behind various projects including Solaris and Kidnap. He put OMFO in touch with Essay Recordings - a record label that is exploring the hidden potential of Eastern European music. OMFO's works began with a successful remix of a track written by Shantel – the man who pioneered the fusion of Balkan music with electronic beats. After the remix was included in the internationally acclaimed Bucovina Club album, OMFO was commissioned by Essay to work on his new album. Responding to the demand for something new in this field, OMFO created Trans Balkan Express. Shortly after its release this album became popular throughout Europe and beyond, scoring hits; it was played on the radio and covered by the mass media. Experimenting with fresh concepts and ideas, OMFO immediately distanced himself from the rest of the producers working in this genre. The peculiar and somewhat humorous vision of a Carpathian villager, playing a native tune on an analogue synthesizer, made OMFO's music natural and accessible for people from all walks of life and religious or ethnic backgrounds. Only this quality could attract an audience that includes criminals, shepherds, astronomers as well as taxi drivers and even terrorists. Regardless of the simplicity of the album, many music critics hailed Trans Balkan Express as cutting edge. The songs from Trans Balkan Express were licensed by other labels and included in various compilations. It also came to the attention of famous comedian Sasha Baron Cohen better known as Ali G. Two tracks from OMFO's album are about to be featured in the new 20th Century Fox film production Borat's Guide to America.
Due to its very strong Arabic influence, one track called Bagdub was not included on the album. It was released by Dorfmeister's G-Stone Recordings, becoming one of the most outstanding tracks of the "Dub Club"compilation. Last spring G. Popov was introduced to Uwe Schmidt himself, who is also know under the alias of Atom™or Señor Coconut. The Sound Wizard kindly agreed to participate in the production of the new OMFO's album. Separated by the Atlantic Ocean but united by a common goal, the two men started to exchange midi and audio files, to manipulate sounds, pushing to the limits of their software and hardware. As a result of their efforts, the album was ready within one month! Under the name We are the Shepherds, this project became the logical continuation of the previous Trans Balkan Express. The ironic reference to Kraftwerk in both titles was intended to underline the electronic concept of music.
To promote his projects, OMFO put together a line-up of five extraordinary people: the Transylvanian gypsy wunderkind Vasil Nedea on cimbalom and accordion, the Azeri sci-fi writer and virtuoso Rassul Kazimov on tar and guitar, the freedom fighter and storyteller Bakhtiyar Eybaliyev as percussionist and singer, often compared to a nightingale, and Fay Lovsky, The Lady from Beyond, who plays extremely rare instruments such as theremin and the singing saw, adding an eerie and mysterious mood to the music. All these musicians took part in the recording of We are the Shepherds.
The spectrum of OMFO's works is wide. He produces soundtracks for adult video clips and composes jingles for Turkmen radio stations. For the Venice biennale he wrote the soundtrack for the first ever Central Asian pavilion. Also, OMFO gives solo concerts and performs as a sound artist, as well as collecting field recordings. One of the new forms of using sound by OMFO is creation of a "sonic horoscopes"which are a peculiar way of linking astrology and music. In order to able to present his musical ideas avoiding European stereotypes he is constantly searching for the right venues and conditions to present his music to the audience. This brings OMFO in interaction with art galleries, theatres, cinemas, planetariums and botanical gardens.