C’mon zeitgeisters, keep up - bellydancers have known about this stuff for years. Really, there’s not a Saturday night when UK community centres aren’t seething with be-sequined ladies whirling dervishly to ageing immigrant maestros clattering out the old country’s greatest hits (1400-1850) on ethnology museum instruments.

Just like the bellydancers, A Hawk and A Hacksaw know that all the best music makes you dance like a loon or cry like a big girl’s blouse – and they get you there with wild, heartstopping folk tunes from the blood-spattered past of the former Soviet and Ottoman empires. No one’s immune. Well, can you think of anything else that’d get coiffed Hoxton types, crumple-jeaned musos, middle-aged folksters, mohicaned teens and Ben Sherman-ed neo-mods in the same room together, let alone shoulder-to-shoulder and whooping like vodkaed-up serfs?

Impishly taking to the stage to the sound of a football rattle and a keening violin melody, the musicians proceed funereally through the crowd in papier mache masks, one of which looks scarily like Frank Sidebottom. Then they halt, nod to each other, and grabbing your dancing parts, jump on a magic carpet, jamming the sat nav on ‘party time, prole-style’.

Brandishing mariachi trumpets, marching band drums, wild accordians and a thumping plucked double bass, they swerve between double-time waltzes, sure-footed tango-esque melodies, and marching band-style stomps like a Formula One motor with the brake cables cut, pit-stopping with sinuous Middle Eastern-sounding violin solos that have the audience gently swaying like giant sea anemones.

Channelling all the raw love, joy and tragedy, there’s not a soul in the room who isn’t inspired to conduct a blood feud with a neighbour, get blasted on toxic local hooch or elope with a feudal overlord’s daughter. Just when you think you can’t take any more A Hawk and A Hacksaw's leader Jeremy Barnes announces, “This is a Transylvanian folk dance. We want everyone to dance. You don’t even know how to.” Being Londoners and not prone to excessive displays of – well, anything – everyone thinks, "What the hell ?" and starts pogoing like English reserve had never been invented.

This joyous madness takes place, ironically, on the eve of Eurovison, but it does more for the spirit of international goodwill than Terry Wogan’s cheese-plated chum-fest could ever dream of. It hasn’t got a chance though. While Eurovision could survive a nuclear war, A Hawk and A Hacksaw and all their comrades face being dropped by a hot potato the minute the next big thing comes along. Enjoy it while it lasts.












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Commenting On: Bush Hall, London, 11/5/2007 - A Hawk and A Hacksaw








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