Gogol Bordello

Gogol Bordello is a self-styled “gypsy punk” band that formed in Manhattan, NY, in 1999. The band’s unique fusion of influences is largely the brainchild of frontman Eugene Hütz’s own unconventional history. Hütz, born Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Nikolayev-Simonov (Евгений Александрович Николаев-Симонов), is a Ukrainian-born expat whose Romani heritage (his mother is partially of Servitka ancestry) inspired his lifelong journey to reconnect with the musical traditions of Europe’s most often maligned and misunderstood peoples. These traditions, in turn, combined with Hütz’s own upbringing playing in punk rock bands in his youth—both in the Ukraine and the US. The result, Gogol Bordello, has garnered a legion of devoted followers since its inception and critical praise from the unlikeliest of corners.

Gogol Bordello has to date produced six full-length records, working with such notable producers as famed punk recording engineer Steve Albini and hip-hop and rock producer Rick Rubin, who worked on their major-label debut, Trans-Continental Hustle (2010). They have also toured the US and Europe ceaselessly, playing major festivals from Bonnaroo and Glastonbury to Lollapalooza and the Cambridge Folk Festival. They have shared the stage with a diverse collection of artists from across the musical landscape—a testament to the diversity and inclusivity that is present in both their music and in Hütz’s memorable lyrics. The band even performed a series of concerts at major art museums in New York and London, an opportunity that was due at least in part to the band’s energetic and unpredictable live performances.

Hütz’s fascination with the traditions of his homeland also resulted in his breakout acting role alongside Elijah Wood in Everything is Illuminated (2005), a screen adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name that relates a sort-of coming-of-age story about a young man’s journey to reconnect with his Ukrainian-Jewish roots. Gogol Bordello’s music is also strongly represented in the film.

With lyrics ranging from the absurd to the goofy to the political (attacking ideas of xenophobia and chauvinistic nationalism), Gogol Bordello’s popularization of Romani music among unlikely audiences has also helped to draw the attention of a younger generation toward the continuing discrimination faced by many Romani communities in Europe to this day.

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The popular single “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)” from the band’s major label debut, Trans-Continental Hustle:

 

 

Lyrics for “Immigraniada”:

Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We comin’ rougher everytime
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We comin’ rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We coming rougher everytime
In corridors full of tear gas
Our destinies change every day
Like deleted scenes from Kafka
Flushed down the bureaucratic drain
But if you give me the invitation
To hear the bells of freedom chime
To hell with your double standard
We comin’ rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We coming rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We comin’ rougher everytime
And those who made it and quickly jaded
To them we got nothing to say
Immigrada, Immigraniada
For them Don Quixote kind of way
But if you give me the invitation
To hear the bells of freedom chime
To hell with your double standard
We comin’ rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We comin’ rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We coming rougher everytime
Frozen eyes, sweaty back
My family’s living on the railroad track
All my life I back in black
But man, I got to earn this black
I gotta pay representation
To be accepted in a nation
Where after efforts of a hero
All comes start again from zero
It’s a book of a true stories
True stories that can’t be denied
It’s more than true, it actually happened
It’s more than true, it actually happened
It’s more than true, it actually happened
We comin’ rougher every time
Rougher every time
We comin’ rougher every time
We coming rougher, we coming rougher
We coming rougher everytime
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
We coming rougher every time
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We comin’ rougher everytime
Immigrada, Immigraniada
Immigrada, Immigraniada da da
Immigrada, Immigraniada
We coming rougher everytime

 

A live recording of the song “Mishto!” (“cool” or “awesome” in Romani), originally from the album Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (2005):

 

 

Note: the following lyrics do not appear to correspond to the live recording.

Lyrics for “Mishto!”:

Ща будет круто, бля!
Ща будет круто!
Чего?
Это чего?
Эй тише!
Ой ё-ё-ё
Это чего?
Эй, это кого?
Сука!
Давай!
Стоп!
Нооо
Чё?
Куда?
Да чего?
Дай, а ну чего?
Це, скажи кого?
Тебе кого?
Но, даешь добро!
Ну давай, ну!
Иди туда, не знаю куда!
Иди ты что не знаю кого!
Ищи кого да гавно!
Чего чего чего
Ай, ну да ну да что?
Америка америка
Ай да ну ничто!
Что блядь!

 

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This entry was written by Michael Filitis, a finalist for a Home and Abroad Scholarship through SRAS.

Michael Filitis is a recent MA graduate from the University of Chicago where he concentrated on early Soviet nationalities policy, propaganda, and the rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe. A recipient of SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship his current focus is the improvement of his Russian language skills with the goal of pursuing a Phd in Russian history and political science. Outside of academia, he enjoys playing and composing music, eating to excess, movies about space, and contemplating a more active lifestyle.