Mahala
Nov 24 2014

Mahala

By: Kimmie Tubre

On the day before their self-titled album release party, Mahala sat down for an interview with Where Y’at to talk about their successes and future plans. Appropriately living in Musicians’ Village, the Balkan music sensation has created a first-class reputation among the Balkan community and music lovers in the Big Easy. Fresh off their Northeast tour the multi-talented crew includes Boyanna Trayanova on drums, Matthew Schreiber on the accordion, and Georgi Petrovfor on guitar.

Where Y’at: How did you guys come together to create Mahala?
Mahala: The three of us met at this crazy house party one night. It was a party with all musicians and all of the people were interested in Balkan music. We had a little jam session that night. We felt that New Orleans needed more Balkan music. And with two of us being from Bulgaria, we wanted to represent. 

WYAT: Do you feel that there’s pressure to play good music and stand out in a city of music like New Orleans?
Mahala: I wouldn’t call it pressure but there is definitely competition, because on any given night you’re competing for the same slice of pie with everyone else in town that’s doing a gig. It’s hard to mobilize your fan base. But I think the fact that there is so much music here makes it helpful, because it keeps us inspired. On any night of the week, we can go see somebody amazing.
I also find it a pretty accepting music community. Even though there are a lot of musicians and a lot of really great bands, everyone is pretty encouraging of people doing what they want to do. For example, we all play jazz but I’ve noticed that a lot of people will play jazz along with having an experimental band or something like that on the side.
With that said, I don’t find it to be aggressively competitive. It’s more of a friendly competition that encourages everyone to do their thing.

WYAT: You all just released your first album, Mahala. What was the atmosphere like in the recording studio?
Mahala: The biggest difference we noticed in the studio was the fact that we didn’t have an audience to feed off of like when we are playing live. I think we were more focused while recording the album. When you’re in the studio, you just try not to take too many risks. It’s a sort of rigid environment. Even though it was a studio setup, we recorded the music live. There were no isolation booths or anything like that.

WYAT: You recently toured the Northeast. What’s the biggest difference between performing out there versus performing in New Orleans?
Mahala: Well, out there, I don’t know everyone.
Honestly, there’s definitely a distance in the Northeast. I recall us performing in Maine in front of a very intense, quiet audience, and after a song Boyanna (our drummer) yelled out, “We’re from New Orleans, Who Dat y’all.” And there was dead silence because no one understood what she was saying.

Basically, the audience feedback is the most different thing. The feedback we get in New Orleans is super cool and that’s one of the best parts of performing here.

We’ve been fortunate to perform in front of the Balkan community here and they sing along with us, dance with us and even throw money on the stage. It’s a blast!

WYAT: As a band, what are your biggest challenges and goals? 
Mahala: The biggest thing we need to do is continue to find our own voice, because we are a band that plays Balkan music but at the same time we live in New Orleans and essentially we all started here as jazz musicians.
Just living in New Orleans causes us to incorporate a little bit of NOLA in our Balkan music. You just can’t help it.
We’re interested in seeing where we can go from this point. We’re kind of a special band in the sense that there are actual Bulgarians playing Bulgarian music in New Orleans.

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