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Jewish-gypsy-rock fusion propels energetic French
band at this year's Detroit Festival of the Arts.
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Special to the Jewish News
ric Slabiak apologizes for speaking English with
a French accent that he considers much too
strong. But he has no regrets about infusing
gypsy music into traditional klezmer sounds.
Slabiak showcases that cultural mix with his band, Les
Yeux Noirs (The Black Eyes), which makes the eight per-
formers a good fit for this year's international focus at the
Detroit Festival of the Arts, running Sept. 13-15 in
Detroit's Cultural Center.
His Paris-based group will appear the last two days of the
annual event — 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday and 6-7 p.m. Sunday
(erev Yom Kippur), Sept. 14-15.
"The klezmer and gypsy sounds are traditional, but we've
added some rock fusion to make it all more modern," says
Slabiak, 35, a violinist who looks forward to his first
appearance in Detroit.
"We want to show how the Jewish and gypsy cultures are
important and complex, and we'll be doing songs from our
CD Balamouk (Romanian for House of Fools), released last
spring by World Village."
Slabiak and his younger brother, Olivier, also a violinist,
founded Les Yeux Noirs 10 years ago, when they got
caught up in the klezmer revival that has reached many
countries. They took the group's name from the title of a
Russian gypsy tune made famous by jazz guitarist Django
Reinhardt in the 1930s.
In concert, the group starts out slowly, with some songs
in Yiddish and Roma, but picks up the pace until the musi-
cians reach a driving, upbeat show that inspires the audi-
ence to move along with them.
Les Yeux Noirs: Taking traditional compositions and making
them unique with special arrangements and new combinations
The band takes traditional compositions and makes them
unique with special arrangements and new combinations of
instruments, including cello, accordion, electric guitar, bass,
drums and cymbalum (an Eastern European instrument
similar to the hammered dulcimer).
Just starting to compose, Les Yeux Noir takes themes
from Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Russia and Armenia and
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International will be the mood at the
16th annual Detroit Festival of the
Arts scheduled Friday-Sunday; Sept.
13-15, in Detroit's Cultural Center.
The three-day event will showcase
diverse cultures and styles, with artists
from Detroit and around the world.
But at least one American rock icon
will be present as well — Al Kooper,
who was scheduled to appear at the
festival last year but had to cancel due
to travel difficulties after 9-11.
The Jewish composer/performer has
written, produced and performed
with Blood, Sweat and Tears, Lynyrd
Skynyrd, the Beatles, the Rolling
Stones and Bob Dylan, for whom he
added his musical touch to "Like a
He'll take the stage playing organ
and keyboards for his rollicking five-
piece band the Funky Faculty 8-10
p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, on the
Charter One/Metro Times Stage, fol-
lowing Les Yeux Noirs.
Some of the international perform-
• Linton Kwesi Johnson, from the
United Kingdom, known as the
world's first dub poet, mixing reggae
rhythms with hard-hitting lyrics —
8:30-10 p.m. Friday.
• Woss Chinese Music Theatre, a
troupe that presents music, dance and
acrobatics — 4:30-6 p.m. Saturday
and 4-5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Rock icon Al Kooper takes the stage
Saturday night following Les Yeux Noir.
• Fiamma Funiana, from Italy, a trio
introducing folk-rockTop sounds —
4:30-6 p.m. Saturday and 4-5:30 p.m.
• Fruit, from Australia, a five-piece