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Balkan Alien Sound Orchestra’s new album as soundtrack of cultural interaction

Over the years a band from Derry in Northern Ireland, called Balkan Alien Sound, has attracted the attention of fans of fusion music and Balkan rhythms. In their latest project the band has actually grown to become BASORK, which stands for Balkan Alien Sound Orchestra. This is also the title of their new album that is to be released on vinyl on June 3. Brass, strings and woodwind combined with lots of improvisation, as well as with hints of jazz and funk, characterize the band's sound.

The musicians currently part of BASORK are: Martin Coyle - bouzouki, baglama; Marc Forbes - electric bass; Robert Peoples – violin; Aideen Davis – vocal; Conor McAuley – drums; Paul Cutliffe - saxophone, clarinet, low whistle; Donal McGuinness – trombone; Robert Goodman – trumpet; Amanda Koser-Gillespie – tuba; Tom Byrne – harmonicas.

We talked to Martin Coyle, founder member of the band, who told us more about his latest project BASORK.

“It is an album we were able to create in the past year. I could collaborate and compose with a lot of musicians from Derry, so I made my Balkan Alien Sound into an orchestra with brass section and woodwind instruments. Some of the compositions in the album are very much influenced by styles of Bulgarian music, like rhythm and melody.”


Martin Coyle’s band often performs in clubs in Northern Ireland and Europe and their music always makes people dance. He jokes he sees a lot of funny dancing as people are not really used to Balkan rhythms. The music also becomes a nice topic of conversation and after a gig people always show interest in learning more about the tunes. The musicians have also been planning to make a tour of the Balkans and Bulgaria.

“That is our intention to finally make a tour of the Balkans. We have been to Europe many times but never as far east as the Balkans. We toured Poland last year, which is probably as close as we got but not quite. So, we are hoping to make as many Bulgarian connections as we can. We have friends who are coming to Ireland at the end of the year. This is a Bulgarian band called Oratniza and we are going to do some shows with those guys and maybe then try to get to Bulgaria to do some performances there.”

Besides music, Martin Coyle is also a big fan of football and inspired from his childhood footballing days in Ireland, watching World Cup football and discovering great Bulgarian player Hristo Stoichkov, the musician dedicated one of the compositions on the new album to the legendary football star. It is called Hristos Dance. The track is a fusion of both Irish melodies and Bulgarian rhythms. Martin Coyle sent it especially to Radio Bulgaria, so its listeners can be among the first to hear it.

The musician has been performing and listening to Bulgarian folk music for many years and continues to find inspiration in it:

“Every time I play it makes me feel really alive. We have maybe three or four Bulgarian traditional standards in our live set and they are some of my favorite tunes to play. We would treat them like jazz standards, allowing lots of improvisation and freedom. The melodies and rhythms are so strong and fast that it really keeps you on your toes. It is always a great pleasure to play Bulgarian music,” he says.

One of the famous Bulgarian musicians who have influenced Martyn Coyle is Ivo Papazov. “I remember the first time hearing his music and it was almost too intense for me but after listening to it and absorbing it, I felt the passion he puts in every note,” he told us.


Martin says that over the past 10 years, the Bulgarian society in Northern Ireland has been growing and he has been in contact with the Association Bulgarian Culture and Education, based in Northern Ireland. That is how on May 20, just days before the Day of Slavonic Alphabet, Bulgarian Enlightenment and Culture, BASORK will hold a concert in Northern Ireland together with Bulgarian musicians. Martin says the concert is open to the entire community and aims also at helping the development of relations between Northern Ireland and Bulgaria and showcasing both cultures working together.

“We love showcasing Bulgarian culture in Northern Ireland. We have been working with Bulgarian musicians and we also want to present our music in your country, as it is a fusion of what is happening to people in both Northern Ireland and Bulgaria. Our music is a soundtrack to this,” Martin Coyle says in conclusion.

English: Alexander Markov

All photos provided by Martin Coyle and Balkan Alien Sound Orchestra

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