IF YOU ASK the six robed and fez-topped musicians of 3 Mustaphas 3, they'll tell you they are a family orchestra from the untraceable town of Szegerely on the Yugoslavian/Bulgarian border. If you ask the more cynical members of the British music press, they'll tell you that 3 Mustaphas 3 are six Londoners organized by GlobeStyle Records' Ben Mandelson (who bears a striking resemblance to Hijaz Mustapha) to dabble in an international smorgasbord of ethnic musics -- the "Pogues of Worldbeat."
While the 3 Mustaphas 3 stage show features a good amount of clowning, their new album, "Soup of the Century," is a fairly straightforward document of six English folk-rockers playing whatever exotic music strikes their fancy -- and playing it fairly well. While this "Soup" is spiced with Tex-Mex, Indian film music, soukous and disco, the dominant flavors are East European -- klezmer clarinets, Polish polkas, Bulgarian vocal harmonies and Balkan folk dances.
This is not the album for discovering the authentic folk traditions of Eastern Europe -- or even the indigenous folk-rock adaptations within those countries. These are six Brits playing the lively, underappreciated dance musics of the Balkans with little purism and great enthusiasm. If you can leave your own purism at home, the enthusiasm is contagious.