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The threads of "Vezi, Vezi"

On October 5th, we'll release a new track, "Vezi, Vezi." Here's the backstory of how it came about and why it took us so long to finally release it.

It starts back in 2018. WPO was on fire this year, touring around the country, releasing and recording new music in our new studio space, and rocking weekly parties at Franky Bradley's. We even hosted our own festival in Philly and played shows in collaboration with some of our heroes - bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania and the Dzambo Agusevi Orkestar from Macedonia. The connections between us, always inspired by the brass bands of Eastern Europe, and the Balkan world were strengthening.

WPO percussionist Chad Brown was our main conduit, the guy cultivating the connections. He learned that a musician from the Kocani Orkestar (whose albums "Alone at My Wedding" and "L'Orient est Rouge" are all-time WPO favorites) was traveling around the U.S. and collaborating with local bands. Chad hosted Nizo Alimov at the Rigby Mansion in Germantown for a week, during which time members of WPO studied with Nizo. We had so many questions about how to play this music, and Nizo had so many answers.

During that week, we asked Nizo to choose a song to teach us. We would develop a unique arrangement of the tune, play it out a few times, and then take it into the studio. Nizo heard our jazz influence, heard Petia's immense vocal gifts and passion for Balkan pop music, and decided to teach us a Macedonian song from 2014 called "Vezi, Vezi." It was originally recorded by Karolina Goceva. Check it out!

It was definitely a different sound for us - clean, poppy, restrained, with twisting jazz harmonies in our four baritone horn section, and a modified beat we had never used before. It was fascinating to us how Nizo made this connection and he was so right. It became a staple of our live shows and one of Petia's favorites to sing. The performance of it at Philadelpia Folk Fest in 2018 was a highlight of that show, and another performance, also with Nizo, at NYE 2018-19 was also memorable.

We recorded it with Nizo one evening at Germantown's Rittenhouse Soundworks, the massive studio operated by Philly percussionist and occasional WPO collaborator Jim Hamilton. The tune was still very fresh, so we were all reading charts and hyper-focused to execute the grooves and melodies as Nizo had shown us. We did most of the song live, only adding a few percussion overdubs later on. But the track was done and we were set to release it in early 2019. So what took so long?

An international copyright nightmare! To release cover songs in the U.S., artists work through a licensing agency who collects royalties on behalf of the original artists. The percentage is set by law, so it's a super straight-forward process - or so it should be. The problem was that "Vezi, Vezi" had not been registered with the U.S.-based agency everyone here uses. So, we thought, no problem - we'll just contact the composers or their representatives and ask them to fill out a simple form. But this proved really difficult. We had Chad and Petia on the case, even attempting to track these folks down in Macedonia. And it felt like several times that we were close. And then the pandemic happened.,.

In any case, we now have a legal way to distribute this track which we love, and are so happy to finally share with you. Not being able to release it, to just having it sit ready-to-go on our hard drives has been killing us! But now you're going to get it! At long last! October 5th, it'll be streaming everywhere and available on our Bandcamp page.

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