Music Review: Black Masala - Trains & Moonlight Destinies

By Samir Shukla

Black Masala
Trains & Moonlight Destinies
Black Masala Music

Count DC-based Black Masala among the feisty brass bands riding a musical wave. These music makers weave vocals, horns, guitars and drums and joyfully dive into a never-ending party.

The band evolved from a duo project in drummer and vocalist Mike Ounallah's basement. “I got together with a trombonist friend of mine because we were both obsessed with gypsy brass music from Romania and Serbia," he said in a press release. “It's a hodge-podge of influences, but our emphasis is really on the songwriting and an all-out dance party at shows."

Their music ranges from Gypsy punk, Balkan brass and New Orleans funk, to Bhangra and bounce. Tropical reggae flourishes sit down with Arabic rhythms while ska, bouncy jazz and brass, tag along to turn the songs into toe-tapping sing-alongs.

If you like music that softens cultural barriers, a masala blend if you will, tinged with healthy doses of dancing, Black Masala's newest offering Trains and Moonlight Destinies will fit snugly in your collection.

Standout tracks include “Empty Bottles" and “Chaje Shukarije," a cover of Romany musical icon Esma Redzepova.

Happy horns and rhythms tie “I Love You Madly" together. “Midnight Bhangra" is a full-throttle track stacked with Punjabi-infused Indian pop and electronic dance grooves. It brings to mind NYC's Red Baraat and would be right at home on one of their albums. “Above the Clouds" is a funky instrumental with nice guitar riffs that is given a remix treatment at the end of the album for a second version.

Black Masala also play slower numbers with jazzy ease.