Brass Menažeri (2000-2013)

The Brass Menažeri ("Menagerie") was the San Francisco Bay Area's Balkan Romani ("Gypsy") powerhouse Brass Band. For 9 years they cascaded through the music of the Serbian, Macedonian, Greek & Rajasthani Roma with wild rhythms, soulful vocals & hot improvisations. Their energy was infectious—toes tap, bodies slam, sweat flies as vital energy radiates from the dance floor. The Brass Menažeri was a shining example of traditional Balkan repertoire combined with new sensibilities, innovative arrangements & original compositions at the hands & lips of American devotees.


Mr. Lif & Brass Menažeri

Brass Menažeri met Mr. Lif way back in December of 2010, when mad genius Devon Leger thought—unlike anyone else in the world—that Balkan brass would make a good backdrop for hip hop. So he invited us all to meet and collaborate in the Seattle Folk Festival. We sent a swath of largely fruitless emails, flew to Seattle, and had a single rehearsal in a puddly coffin factory, with a borrowed Crate bass guitar amp for Lif’s vocals. We didn’t get electrocuted, somehow, and thus we didn’t make use of the factory’s usual product. Instead we created a collaboration method based on live remixing the band, slicing and rearranging our repertoire on cue, muting and soloing sections of the band & looping sections willy nilly, like a DJ might if they held dictatorial control over ten people, instead of Ableton Live.

You weren’t there, but it was awesome.

We loved it & rocked it. We decided to make a record, raised money from friends & faithful strangers, recorded a lot of music, the band disbanded, some people loved and lost, others simply waited, we composed & recorded & edited & re-recorded (in three different countries) & cut & recut & recomposed (& decomposed a bit—happens to us all), and now only seven years later, you’re holding this thing in your I-wouldn’t-say-grubby-exactly hands, praise the laud.
We’re so eternally grateful to all those who believed in us and supported us throughout this long process; to all who donated to the project; to Waxsimile Records for putting us over the top; and to you for listening to the final result. We hope you enjoy this crazy fruit of our crazy labor & our crazy love. And while the world's winds whip up certain uncertainty, may we breathe deep & build Resilience together—our intertwined roots anchoring our supple-yet-shatterproof trunks, so that everyone's limbs might offer up their most beautiful particular fruit, to nourish us all, while we birth again the world.

—Peter Jaques, Athens 2017
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