Interview with Juana Ghani at Brewskis - May 18

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Join us at Brewskis on Saturday, May 18th for a neon-lit night of music for the people by the people.

Everyone has moments when music stabs deep down and drags them to their feet to truly dance. If you'd like an opportunity to have one of those moments, I highly suggest making it out to see Juana Ghani & Folk Hogan. Both of whom are freshly anointed by City Weekly Magazine as being amongst some of the more impressive acts in the state.

Considered to be one of the chief gypsy punk ensembles in Utah, Juana Ghani has been awarded "Best of the Beehive" by Salt Lake Magazine. Their music draws from all over the world. This includes an impressive variety of language, which spans from English to Hungarian, Russian to Spanish and even Greek. Juana Ghani is much more than a band, they are a troupe brought together by their love making the music of life and sharing it.

Folk Hogan is an explosion of punk gypsy music wailed on time-honored folk instruments. Their music is diverse and yet drives home a giddy-drunk sort of humor. This band is in high demand, as is proof in their busy performance schedule. There are hopes for the possibility of an international tour in the future. They have also been featured guests on local radio station X96.

In a general sense, everyone is familiar with the punk genre. However, most are only getting antiquated to the idea of "gypsy" music. The popularity of musical acts such as Gogol Bordello and DeVotchKa have breathed new life into an enduring and diverse musical history. Gypsy music has an adaptive variety that changes from country to country, with distinct local mannerisms which, to a degree, is symptomatic of the nomadic lifestyle embraced by the original culture. As a result, gypsy music has an intrinsic essence that will get anyone's feet stomping and their hands clapping along.

I had the opportunity to ask Juana Ghani a few questions :

Only In Ogden: Is there anything in particular you would like people to know about you?

Juana Ghani: Besides our love for Five Wives Vodka?  I guess mostly that we love and embrace all experiences of life – the good and the not-so-good.  That, I think, is expressed in our songs as we mix dark and macabre lyrics with celebratory and happy melodies and rhythms.  That's real life. As Tom Waits once said, "I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."  We tend to subscribe to that same belief. Sometimes things don't always go along in a pleasant bubble of existence where everything is all peachy keen and no bad things ever happen, but we still have this wonderful life with all its joys and sorrows and challenges and accomplishments and mourning and celebrations.  And this is true, regardless of your background.  That's another thing unique about us, I think – we come together from a variety of political, religious (and non-religious) and ethnic backgrounds and we get along wonderfully anyway (although the vegetarian vs. omnivore thing makes ordering pizza a bit of a challenge).  It's like we are a reflection of how the world could – and arguably should – be.  We embrace these differences while simultaneously focusing on our similarities and creative drives.  We don't try to force anybody to be anything other than what and who they are.

OIO: If you can put it to words what is the driving force/s behind your music?

JG: Honesty. Simply put, it's honesty. We write and perform music that is true to our hearts, music that tells our story (sometimes buried in hyperbole, but always there).  We didn't set out to be a "Gypsy band."  Our original intent – which is still our only intent – was to bring the songs that live in our hearts and souls out to the world, the way we hear them.  It's only coincidence that this music has a Rom (the real name for the Gypsy people – "Gypsy" is actually considered a derogatory word by many Rom) feel or influence to it.  The music itself made that decision for us.

OIO: What do you feel sets you apart from other live acts in the area?

JG: The obvious answer would be the dancers that accompany us and the sheer size of the band.  We are an 11-piece Gypsy punk band, and that number doesn't include the dancers and performance artists we bring with us.  I'm not sure there is another band, short of a local symphony, that has this many members – and all playing traditional acoustic instruments.

OIO: I saw you at the Gallery Event in Dec. of last year. What this your first event in Ogden?

JG: Actually, our first event in Ogden was the Ogden Arts Festival in 2011.  This year marks our 3rd time playing there.  We also had a fun time playing at Mojo's with Hectic Hobo last spring and, of course, The End of the World party at Crowley Gallery was off the hook fun!

OIO: What's your impression of Ogden coming in as performance artists?

JG: We love Ogden!  Every time we've played up there the people have been so wonderful and so excited to share in our music.  The energy exchange with the audience is such an important part of a crazy fun show and we always get so much of that energy from the Ogden folks.

  • Juani Ghani's current line-up & their roles in the band:
  • Brian Bonell – guitars, concertina, vocals
  • Leisl Bonell – lead vocals, concertina; manager
  • Tony Semerad – mandolin, vocals
  • Nick Newberry – accordion, hurdy-gurdy
  • Tiffin Brough – violin (fiddle)
  • Jennifer Klettke – sousaphone
  • Jason Deamer – drumkit
  • Christopher Futral – doumbek
  • Bryan Bale – doumbek, all flavors of percussion
  • Byron Owens – doumbek, saw, and other percussion goodies, vocals
  • Tanya Semerad – parade bass drum

Brewskis is located at 244 Historic 25th Street in Ogden, Utah. Tickets are $5 at the door, ladies get in free. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Must be 21-years or older to attend.