Camelot Lounge, May 20


Marsala res
Vladimir Khusid. Photo supplied.

This is the real multicultural Australia: neither threat, failure, myth nor aspiration, but a thumping reality. Migration can be a glue rather than a source of division, because it is something most of us share, even if coming from spectacularly diverse places. Express this diversity in music, as Marsala does so joyously, and watch the various ethnic pools cohere. Young and old, from all corners of the world, the audience members responded as one: dancing, laughing, clapping and singing. This is what our politicians don’t get: the arts are not a luxury, but the secret that converts an economy into a community.

For two decades Marsala has been turning music from all around the world into one repertoire, and people from around the world into one audience. As usual, the night was sold out and the audience danced from the first song: Macedonians with Brazilians, Russians with Italians and more. Although an edge of madness fizzed in the air, it was a good madness. A friendly frenzy.

The first seven songs came from Serbia, Cuba, Italy, Belgium, France, Brazil and Zimbabwe. What band other than Joseph Zarb’s would be audacious enough to think of it? What other band would pull it off?

The success was less about authenticity than honesty: playing every idiom with conviction, and finding the common denominator in each: fun. Zarb’s coarse-grained vocals tore a swath through the songs, and his rhythm guitar was supported and embellished by some of the finest players in town: trumpeter Vladimir Khusid, alto saxophonist Blagoja Stojcevski, guitarist Gino Pengue, drummer Bill Kazelos and guest bassist Brett Hirst.

Every groove was somewhere between vibrant and irresistible, and virtually every solo raised the stakes of its host song, whether it was Khusid’s diamond-edged trumpet blazing on Dark Eyes or Stojcevski’s machinegun alto on Wedding Cocek. For 140 minutes this was music as art and for dancing all at once; music for going a little crazy. And the community that goes crazy together sticks together.

Marsala: Camelot, July 1.