Listen up, musicians: Chalgiya reveals secret for success during Morristown gig

Macedonian folk tunes probably aren’t on the iPod playlists of most aspiring rock stars.

But they’ve been a gold mine for Matt Moran and his mates in Chalgiya, a trio that had people dancing on the sweltering Morristown Green at Wednesday’s Music Without Borders lunchtime concert.Matt, 39, was a drummer in a heavy metal band when a romantic interest led him to visit Macedonia. The romance fell by the wayside.

But the music, well, that captured his heart.“I just heard it and loved it,” said the Brooklyn resident. “I love the different rhythms, the dance aspect. It’s very ballsy music, very fun.”It’s also a niche that virtually nobody else has discovered.

Matt said the group plays about 200 gigs a year, from intimate gatherings like Music Without Borders to jam band festivals before thousands of listeners. Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian and Turkish tunes are part of the repertoire. Chalgiya means “orchestra” in Turkish.

Chalgiya’s sax player, Greg Squared, studied improv, gypsy music and jazz at the University of California-San Diego. Balkan music offers some musical similarities to jazz, he said, while providing a “way to distinguish myself from the 726,000 other jazz saxophone players in New York.”

Greg, 40, is creeping up on a decade with Chalgiya. The highlight, he said, was five days in a mountaintop monastery in Macedonia.

“Niche is definitely the way to go in a town (New York) of classical and jazz players,” said accordionist Matthew Fass, 47. In a nod to his Irish-American heritage, he sometimes plays the gaida– Macedonian bagpipes.

Matthew said he is drawn to the “wonderful mysticism” of the Balkans. A spiral dance in the Bulgarian mountains dates back thousands of years, he said.

When he is not reading music charts, Matthew studies planetary charts as a freelance astrologer. He also is doing an internship with a “gypsy lady on 14th street.” Which suggests Dylan more than Balkan.

From his charts, Dylan knew the world as we know it would not end this spring, as some evangelicals were expecting. Chalgiya happened to be playing in Missouri on that not-so-fateful day. The very next afternoon, however, a huge tornado ravaged Joplin.

“That was freaky,” Matthew said.

Music Without Borders is presented by the Arts Council of the Morris Area and the Mayo Performing Arts Center. The next free lunchtime concert is Music from China on July 20.

SCRATCHING A NICHE: Chalgiya performs at Music Without Borders. From left, Greg Squared, Matthew Fass and Matt Moran. Photo by Kevin Coughlin



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