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"Portrait / Shantel"

Portrait / Shantel

Few people attending Shantel’s showcase at the 2005 WOMEX in Gateshead could resist the pulsating beats. The diminutive DJ was bringing out his usual cocktail of wild Balkan brass tunes, electronic beats, bluesy ballads and unexpected Latino rhythms. He brought the hordes attending to a frenzy when he grabbed his accordion and accompanied the music mix. By the end of Shantel’s set, security had arrived to order the hundreds of journalists, producers and “world music” aficionados off the stage. The risk of it collapsing was real, they said firmly, and the party was over.

Such delirium is not a rare occurrence at Shantel’s Bucovina shows. “Pure, naked euphoria, bringing together all age groups and nationalities,” is how one critic has put the response to his eclectic beats. Yet, the Frankfurt-based artist has not been trapped by the usual clichés and politically-correct fusions that haunt so many electronic/ “world music” scenes. And with good reason. His mother originates from a region that was once a part of the huge Habsburg Empire, and is now split between Romania and Ukraine. Bucovina is a stunning region declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Yet, such is the success of Shantel’s music concoctions, that he has all but usurped the name.

It was a trip to Bucovina that exposed the accordion player to the region’s rich instrumental melodies, Gypsy ballads and sweaty dances called “kolo”, “hora” and “cocek” (the local equivalent of belly-dancing). He returned to Germany and began experimenting with these beats, first in the techno scene, and then with the more experimental hi-tech pulses. His Bucovina Club nights began at Frankfurt’s Schauspiel before moving on to Germany’s major cities. His respect for the Balkan’s musical roots has allowed Shantel to carve out a reputation as a purist who has successful brought this traditionally rural music into the urban jungle.

Shantel produced two Bucovina Club anthologies on his Essay Recordings label. Crammed Discs then hired him to remix recordings by the Kocani Orkestar and Taraf de Haidouk, to bring out Electric Gypsyland. He has since jammed and toured with these groups as well as Mahala Rai Banda, the Boban Markovic Orkestar, the Sandy Lopicic Orkestar, and several more. In 2006 he was rewarded for his vibrant music sets and recordings with a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the Club Global category. In 2007, Shantel brought out Disko Partizani which according to the Crammed Discs label is “a blueprint for a new brand of festive Balkan pop”. While it continues to draw from Mitteleuropa, it also adds elements of southeast Europe, Greece, Turkey, and beyond.

For the moment the modest and yet ebullient performer has managed to avoid the traps fallen into by the likes of Goran Bregovic and Emir Kusturica. His plundering of Balkan Rom music to create popular dance music has been done with a deep respect for the complex and rich music forms. Only time will tell if he can continue to innovate in such creative minefields.

Daniel Brown, December 2007.
- Mondomix December 2007

"Disko Partizani Review"

It’s impossible to ignore the soaring resurgence of Balkan music. Only a dwindling few could turn their backs on a movement which has persuaded European DJs - a breed famed for their unshakable faith in the synthesiser and the mullet to swap their techno vinyls for fresh, gypsy-influenced flavours.
Germany’s DJ Shantel is perhaps the most well-known of the Balkan converts. In interviews, Shantel, a former fixture of Germany’s techno scene, details his musical change of heart with the level of candidness normally reserved for support group meetings.
He speaks of his frustration at years spent slavishly feeding Berlin’s timeless appetite for techno, and how it was when he turned his attention to the music his grandmother had been so fond of – the distinctive sounds of the Bucovina region – that his music found a new direction.
Merging the anarchic energy of gypsy music with the reliable pulse of techno, Shantel’s Bucovina Club project was a notable success, storming Europe’s dancefloors and scooping the ‘Club Global’ award at last year’s BBC Awards For World Music.
But, ever the enemy of complacency, Shantel’s latest project waves a fond farewell to the Bucovina sound. Bucovina Club was, at heart, a techno record. Its goal was simply to make us dance. Disko Partizani has more sophisticated aims. It’s a record which sees Shantel explore the true spirit of Balkan music, reveling in its emotional ambivalence and inquisitive flair.
A savvy Balkan record with strong commercial appeal. Once again, Shantel’s bravery has been rewarded.
Robert Jackman (2007-09-21)

"Award for World Music 2006"


As the dance music scene continues to contract many DJs are moving into the world music arena, looking for fresh sounds to take to the dancefloor. DJ Shantel - Germany's Stefan Hantel - is one such example. Shantel cut his DJing teeth in Germany's techno scene but, noting how Gypsy brass orchestras Fanfare Ciocarlia and Boban Markovic could turn an audience into a wild, heaving mass, he believed that with a little electronic tweaking he could blend Balkan Gypsy tunes into his DJ set. Calling his Frankfurt DJ nights Bucovina Club, he attracted an audience well up for raving to heaving tubas and scalding trumpets. Some of the tunes were so naturally funky Shantel didn't need to add anything. Others he remixed, adding electronic beats and layering the horns on top.
Word got around about his Bucovina Club nights and the remix album of the same name Shantel issued on his Essay label. Then Crammed Discs employed him (and several other DJs) to remix their Taraf De Haidouks and Kocani Orkestar recordings as Electric Gypsyland. The resulting album was intermittently successful but it helped promote Shantel's musical vision internationally. His 2005 Bucovina Club Volume 2 collection has proven a major European Where most techno and house was characterless and lacked any organic elements Shantel's managed to mix Gypsy magic with a hi-tech pulse.
Shantel called his night Bucovina because his maternal ancestors have roots in the region, once part of the mighty Habsburg Empire but now partly in Romania and partly Ukraine. Bucovina Club Volume 2 features Balkan heavyweights Goran Bregovic and Fanfare Ciocarlia alongside a Gypsy take on North African anthem Ya Rayah and other material.
Shantel bears obvious comparison with Bosnia's Goran Bregovic - both are non-Romas who have imaginatively plundered Balkan Gypsy music to create a sound with popular appeal. Whether Shantel will face the same criticisms as Bregovic or can carefully negotiate his way through this artistic minefield we will have to wait and see. For now, DJ Shantel is remixing and reinventing Balkan Gypsy music for a dance music audience.
Garth Cartwright
- BBC 2006


Shantel: Higher than the Funk & Great Delay (K7)
Shantel: Bucovina Club 1 & 2 (Essay Recordings)
Shantel: Disko Partizani (Essay Recordings/Crammed Discs)



Shantel, who started out as a respected electronica producer (with two albums out on Studio K7), has taken to the music of Eastern Europe following a trip to Bucovina, in search of his family roots. His Bucovina Club albums have earned him several awards (including a BBC World Music Award). Known as Party Meister par excellence he now often leaves his decks to perform with his own Bucovina Club Orkestar.
After pioneering the concept of Balkan clubbing with his now-legendary Bucovina Club parties and albums, after working his DJ voodoo around the world (and driving crowds to ecstatic bliss), after setting very high standards for dancefloor-oriented Gypsy music with his own seminal tracks and with his remixes he has now moved on to the next step with the fab Disko Partizani! album, which lays the groundwork for a new brand of pop music. This is the sound of new Europe, centered in the middle of our old continent, but incorporating vibrant influences from the emerging new frontier which stretches all the way to Mitteleuropa, the South East, Greece, Turkey and beyond…
His latest album Disko Partizani sees Shantel successfully synthesizing his experiences as a producer, musician and DJ to create catchy, energetic and festive pop songs, full of hooks and surprises. The album features great performances by a host of musicians from southeast Europe and by Shantel himself, who also appears on lead vocals, gracing several tracks with an unexpected, elegant deadpan delivery.
Shantel has written the original music for "The Edge Of Heaven", the new Fatih Akin movie which won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Disko Partizani went platinum in Turkey and has been released in Romania, Greece, and Serbia.