Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics

  • Release
  • 04/04/2014
  • 11142-thecubalkanics
  • 11140-jaromilko_presspic
  • 11141-cover_cubalkanics

Cigarros Explosivos

Asphalt Tango


Jaro  Milko & The  Cubalkanics is the solo project by guitarist Jaro Milko. The band from Basel was founded in the end of 2010 and brings together renowned musicians from the  Balkan-­‐, Reggae-­‐, Latin-­‐ and Jazzscene in Switzerland. Eastern european Gypsy music meets  Cumbia and Musica Cubana, Instrumentals interspersed with songs. This rootsbased music awakens the  wanderlust, the Latin rhythms of the drums/percussion  duo-­‐monster shoots merciless on the hips. A trashy  organ  is droping all inhibitions, a crazy gone trombone pumps Slivovitz into the  veins. The singing sounds wistful and the unmistakable guitar of  Jaro  Milko  shapes  the   sound  of the quintet.

Since   2008, Jaro  Milko is the guitarist of the international group Firewater (US/TR/Il/UK) and tours in the EU and USA. He played with Erik Sanko (Lounge Lizards, Skeleton  Key), Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow (Elysian Fileds), Johnny Kalsi (The Dhol Foundation, Afro  Celt Sound System), Ori Kaplan and Adam Scheflan (Balkan Beat Box), Jean Marc Butty (PJ Harvey,  John Parish, Venus), Yoni Halevy (The Apple), Reut Regev (Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars),  Jazz Singh (Drum Line Entertainment),   Brian   Drye   (Slavic   Soul   Party)   and Haggai Fershtmann   (The Monotonix, Asav Avidan). In 2003 he joined the rock group Carma Star. Since 2001,  he’s a former member of the Balkan troop Prekmurski Kavbojci, where he found his eastern vein again and discovered the admiration for Django Reinhardt. Influenced by John Zorn's Naked City, he  started the Avantguard group Strange Fruit in 1999. He then also founded Wolfsquinten, his own  experimental Orientaljazz trio with Michi Stulz (Lisette Spinnler, Stefan Rusconi) and Stephan Brunner (Tight Finks). In addition to   these   bands,   he   plays   in several  projects in various   genres   such   as   Balkan, Manouche, World, Jazz, Medieval, Avantguard, Pop, Rock and Surf.
Jaro  Milko was born in  1978, as a  son of Czechs  who emigrated to Rheinfelden, Switzerland. At eight, he started to play classical guitar and was given lessons from Willi Riechsteiner untill his 20th age, who also taught him the music of the Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer.  As a teenager Jaro Milko bought a Jolana in a department store in Prague, changed to the electric guitar at the age of thirteen and formed his first punk band The Vexation, which  later resulted  in  the  Jimi  Hendrix  tribute  band  Crash Landing.  1999-­‐2003  he studied at  the Music Academy  of  Basel  Jazz  with  Francis Coletta. 

Members Include:
Jaro Milko - Guitar & Vocals
Luke Briggen - Trombone
Ines Brodeck - Percussion & Backing Vocals
Eric Gut - Drums & Backing Vocals
Eric Gilson - Organ 

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World Music/Contemporary | Latin | Jazz



Garrett Baker

Cumbia, Cuba, The Balkans & Exploding Cigars; Introducing Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics, Cigarros Explosivos!

There’s a point where the rhythm of the cumbia, the sound of Cuba and Balkan music all come together. And it’s right in the heart of the Jaro Milko and the Cubalkanics. It’s a place without borders, wild and wonderful; it’s Milko’s creation, where surf guitar, Cuban son and the powerful hit of Gypsy brass dance side by side. The five-piece Swiss band fuse his vision into a unique, delicious whole on their debut Cigarros Explosivos! (released March 28th, 2014 on Ashpalt Tango).

Jaro Milko first put the Cubalkanics together four years ago, his own guitar along with organ, drums, percussion and trombone.

“I was thinking of the people more than the instruments when I set the lineup,” he explains. “I knew I wanted a band with a different sound, and we don’t have a bass player.” But in trombonist Luke Briggen he has a secret weapon. “He actually plays some of the basslines. He has a pedal that lowers the notes by an octave. To me it sounds just like Balkan brass and that’s what I want.” With Eric Gilson’s organ picking up the rest of the bottom end, “which is very ‘60s,” they were set.

The Cubalkanics quickly began recording and playing shows to hone their sound. But they took their time to let it all develop, and the irresistible Cigarros Explosivos! is the result. The offbeat syncopation offers a nod to ska while keeping its feet dancing in Latin America, and many of the melodies and lyrics are homages to time spent in Cuba.

“Cumbia No. 5” is a remembrance of falling asleep there, all the sounds that come up like a fever dream,” Milko explains, while “Music Rum And Cha-Cha-Cha” was inspired by a visit to Casa de la Trova, the legendary musical haunt in Santiago de Cuba, home to so many of the island’s greatest musicians. “It’s more about the Cuba that most tourists don’t know.”

The lyrics are short fragments, but that, Milko states, is quite deliberate.

“I’m not a writer. I’m a guitar player. I write the words as short lines so I don’t forget them!”

The Cubalkanics first took shape in 2010, but the genesis for the project began long before that. Milko, who was born in Switzerland after his parents moved from Czechoslovakia, had played Balkan music for many years, then began mining the Gypsy swing of Django Reinhardt as a member of Prekmurski Kavbojci. The Cuban influence arrived after Milko visited the country with his girlfriend.

“There was so much familiar stuff. Furniture and glasses that were the same as my parents had in the 1970s. It was familiar and weird at the same time.” He began an ongoing affair with Cuban music, especially the guitar and tres. The final strand fell into place in 2008, not long after Milko became a member of Firewater, the band formed by ex-CopShootCop singer & bassist Tod A.

“We were touring in the US and someone gave us a cumbia compilation. We all feel in love with it and played it all the time on the road.” But it resonated deep for Milko and the seeds were planted for his new sound.

It’s the culmination of years as a musician. He began as a child by taking classical guitar lessons, then buying his first electric instrument in his teens, moving through punk and rock until he found jazz and started Strange Fruit, an avant-garde ensemble where “most of the music was heavily composed and extreme but with some free sections.” From there his path has wound through other bands, but with Cubalkanics he feels like he’s come home.

“It’s very close to me,” Milko says. “It’s very personal. The songs are mine, the lyrics are mine. It’s certainly the most emotional music I’ve made; the other things are more intellectual.” Milko goes on to mention how the album couldn't have been made without the drums & percussion team of Ines Brodbeck & Eric Gut. "This is a well-established duo transforming straight tumbaos into Balkan odd meters. Making you want to dance immediately, these Caribbean-Rhythm experts are willing to hit hard enough to compete with distorted surf guitars and a mad-gone organ."

And there’s certainly emotion on the album. Cigarros Explosivos is an album of moods, from the playful “Cumbia Griega” to the dark twang that spreads across “All The Past” like a shadow all the way through to the lazy sunniness of “Summer in January.” The cumbia beat underpins the music, pushing it along, while Milko’s guitar is the real powerhouse, bringing color and drive and adding to every track, and completing the package.

Jaro Milko and the Cubalkanics bring plenty of surprises. And, of course, the exploding cigars.

Dispatch Details

Record Label: Asphalt Tango
Release Title: Cigarros Explosivos!