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Five Reasons Eugene Hutz (of Gogol Bordello) Should Be Our World Ambassador

on July 22, 2013, 12:00am

OrionMusicMoreFreed 13 Five Reasons Eugene Hutz (of Gogol Bordello) Should Be Our World Ambassador

While diplomatic status is not generally handed out to the hardworking frontmen of raucous punk bands, Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz might warrant some extra consideration. A Ukrainian immigrant who made it to New York City and moved to Brazil in the past half decade, Hütz projects a distinct view of the world through interviews and his band’s music. This week, Gogol Bordello return with Pura Vida Conspiracy, an album Hütz has spoken about mostly in terms of the fusion of the group’s signature gypsy punk sound and the influence of his residence in Brazil. In the spirit of Hütz’s ability to see cultures as bridgeable and the world’s complexities as things to sample and celebrate, we thought we’d pick out a few reasons why Hütz should be our world ambassador. The UN can thank us later.

1. Hütz has a heart for the outsider

In 2010, Gogol Bordello performed for NPR’s World Cafe and discussed the song “Immigraniada” off Trans-Continental Hustle. Hütz said it was inspired by the stories of fans who are transplants in other countries but find a sense of home in the band’s music. “It’s the struggle of all people choosing where they want to reside. It should be so free and easy to decide… but there’s the whole almost dehumanizing, immigration bureaucratic apparat that you have to deal with,” he said. Hütz has also written and spoken about the plight of the Romani. His grandmother was a Gypsy, and Hütz and his family spent time with her clan after evacuating their hometown post-Chernobyl in the ’80s. Songs like “Break the Spell” deal with not just the institutionalized mistreatment of Gypsies in Eastern Europe, but in-group, out-group dynamics that can be found in countless places and situations around the world.

2. He’s bringing together Brazil and the Balkan

It seems like an unlikely pairing:  Latin music and Gogol Bordello’s brand of Eastern Bloc Rock. But according to Hütz, high-energy cultures are well-matched regardless of what they are. The best proof might be “Malandrino” off the upcoming Pura Vida Conspiracy, a song that adds Mariachi into the Gogol Bordello mix. And it works because, as Hütz put it to Rolling Stone, “those two [Latin and Balkan music] have discovered each other and are going fucking bananas.”

3. The band represents more than “world music”

Music with deep ethnic or cultural roots is frequently relegated to the “World Music” bin as a type of music that’s perhaps pretty and exotic, but not ours. Gogol Bordello has done a rare feat in transcending genre and audience. We know they’re “Gypsy Rock” (or whatever), but that hasn’t boxed them in as merely a novelty or something to be enjoyed apart from any American/British punk act. In a 2010 interview with Mother Jones, Hütz remarked after performing on The Tonight Show, “It just makes you realize how not mainstream, essentially, it is what we do, and how far into mainstream we brought it in.”

4. Hey, Elijah Wood would probably vouch for him

On a goofier note, there’s always Hütz’s role in the movie adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated to consider. In the movie, Hütz plays Alex, a young Ukrainian man helping Foer (Wood) find his grandparents’ lost World War II village. Alex is a force of earnest good will and curiosity toward his American charge, despite his masterfully mangled English, and manages to build a friendship with the uptight foreigner over the things they do have in common.

5. He’s a polyglot

“When you travel, you find that some languages have something that no other language can offer,” Hütz told Billboard in a recent interview discussing the Spanish present in the new album’s title. Spanish lyrics pop up on “Malandrino”, Portuguese on Trans-Continental Hustle, and Ukrainian elsewhere on previous records. His use of different languages as needed is another example of Hütz’s citizen of the world approach to art and life. Foreign language music doesn’t get much play Stateside. Hütz is showing why it doesn’t have to be that way.

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