It’s very nice that Canadian gypsy jazz guitarist Adrian Raso has a song in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. He deserves a high five. Urn Street Tavern, a collaboration with long-running Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia, which has 10 songs in the soundtrack, was released in 2014 on the album Devil’s Tale for the German label Asphalt Tango.
“It opens a huge number of doors,” Raso, who is based in Guelph, Ontario, tells FYI Music News. “To be a part of such a huge blockbuster, it’s pretty inconceivable, especially in the market I’m in, first of all being Canadian, and secondly being in this niche market of gypsy jazz. It really helps open things worldwide.”
Urn Street Tavern was written by Raso and Asphalt Tango’s founder Henry Ernst, a German sound engineer who discovered Fanfare Ciocarlia in 1996 in the village of Zece Prajini, in Moldava, when he was travelling in search of traditional village music. He now manages the group too.
The song is part of a full album Raso did with Fanfare Ciocarlia with whom he toured all over the world, about 40 dates. He linked up with them after seeing the first Borat film, 2006’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The group did a cover of Born To Be Wild by Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf.
“This is the funny part of the story,” begins Raso. “I was watching the first Borat film and when I heard it, I thought, ‘That’s fake horns. There’s no way those guys are that quick.’ I did some research and found out this band actually exists. So, I emailed Henry and asked if they were planning on ever touring Canada and he said, ‘Yeah, we are coming there in a while.’
“We talked back and forth and he found out I was an artist and said, ‘Oh, you’re doing gypsy music. Send me something.’ We talked more and he said, ‘It would be cool to put them together with a Western artist.’ We should do a record together.’ And that turned into Devil’s Tale, which was a huge success for us.”
When Borat star and creator Sasha Baron Cohen set about doing Borat 2, Raso says Ernst was hired as a music consultant for the song placements given Asphalt Tango’s cornerstone of the market for Eastern, Balkan and gypsy music. That’s how a snippet of Urn Street Tavern, which has its own strange music video, landed in the iconic mockumentary about fictitious Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev who travels to the U.S. to interact with unsuspecting real-life Americans.
“My song is where they are going into the Southern States into hillbilly land,” says Raso, adding, “I think it’s one of the most important films that came out during covid because it’s the first movie that gives the social dialogue of what’s happened and sometimes what the people think happened. It’s also important because of the election, and he did that by design. So it’s interesting to see how he uses art to affect social consciousness.”
Raso released his 10th solo album, Gypsybilly King, on Asphalt Tango, at the end of 2019, featuring collabs with Prince’s drummer Michael Bland, The Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker, and multiple members of Del Bel. But, alas, due to the covid shut down, he says, “It went dead in the water, which is really disappointing. Just couldn’t tour it.”
For fun, he released a “little project” called The Eight Track Sessions and is currently planning on a new album with Fanfare Ciocarlia, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year.