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Interview with Russian Street Folk Band Debauche

New Orleans-based band Debauche is one of the acts scheduled to perform at the 2015 edition of North American world music showcase globalFEST. The band’s founder discuss Debauche’s background and their plans for globalFEST.

Angel Romero – Can you tell us about the band you will be taking to globalFEST 2016?

Yegor Aleksandrovich Romantsov – At the globalFEST we will be playing traditional Russian street folk songs in our own interpretation, alone with some originals.
Debauche will be presented by Scott “Boroda” (“the beard” in Russian) on an upright bass that he loves to climb on top of.

Our beautiful belly dancer Kerry Lynn, who also plays the marching drum and climbs on top of an upright bass, when it’s vacant.

Virtuoso accordionist Christian Kuffner, who can not only speak 6 languages, but also sing them.

The youngest member Jonathan Arcenaux the drummer.

Andrew Alikhanov on a clarinet – the expert in our genre and the only Russian speaking guy in the band, besides me.

And, of course, your humble servant, Yegor Aleksandrovich Romantsov, the soul and the engine of the band. And a singer too. And I play guitar … and cards ..

AR – Many influential North American arts presenters will be at globalFEST 2016. What do you expect to get out of it?

YAR – We expect to get very busy after globalFEST!

AR – Can you give our readers a brief history of your band?

YAR – I started playing my Russian street folk songs, just where they belong, on the streets of New Orleans, around 2008 and a year later we had a full size band with great and talented musicians. Two years later we recorded our first album, got awarded twice by New Orleans “Gambit Awards” as the Best World Music Band … (in the world !), nominated for the Best Rock Band!, best upcoming band … And we never rested ever since!

AR – What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

YAR – Our music is crazy energetic mixture of Gypsy, Klezmer, Russian and Ukrainian folk, Balkan and a little punk rock is involved, of course.

We sing in Russian, some songs are more than 100 years old street stories from Odessa. They tell stories about legendary gangsters.

Some of them are sad love stories … and someone always dies at the end, but at the end it all turns in to celebration of life, just like at the
New Orleans’s jazz funeral!

And Speaking of New Orleans connection. Debauche could only happened in New Orleans! The city of jazz and Mardi Gras, where people love good live music, love parades and parties , and take it very seriously and religiously. They are always open to our music and dance and sing along and no one ever notices that we sing in a different language, or do we? And as we travel here in US, we have always been received well.

All of my musicians are Americans, but it never stops them to go wild and sing along.

AR – Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

We listen a lot to Balkan, Gypsy music, songs from Odessa that reminds me a lot of New Orleans…

AR – You are based in New Orleans which is a famous music town, but you describe your music as Russian hooligan street music. What’s the Russian connection?

YAR – No, there is no Russian connection here. There is no Russian community here and very few Russians. Most of our fans are Americans here… I was born in Soviet Union, started playing classical piano at the age of 6, then guitar, and years later my musical evolution brought me to New Orleans.

But it is always a double compliment when hard to please Russians, who heard this songs many times say, that they have never heard it like this before.

And when Cajuns ask Debauche to play at their weddings – that makes me feel that we are doing the right thing!


AR – Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

YAR – My first recording I made was in USSR in 1988, but that is a different story. Made In USSR.

AR – What musical instruments do you use?

YAR – Our instruments are acoustic: guitar, fiddle, accordion, clarinet, upright bass, drums.

AR – If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?

YAR – I would get Eugene and Sergey from Gogol Bordello, get Goran Bregovic, Mardi Gras Indians … and see what happens next !

AR – Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

YAR – Working on the next (third) Debauche album. Working on my songs in English for the solo album… boring to talk about it till you can listen to it.