Russian Gypsy Balalaika virtuoso Bibs Ekkel, London, UK
Born in 1946 in England of mixed Polish-English background, Bibs Ekkel is both musician and linguist.
His career as one of very few outstanding professional balalaika players outside Russia has brought him much recognition worldwide, including in the balalaika's Motherland, where he has performed on radio and TV as well as at Moscow's prestigious "Hall of Columns" and "Tchaikovsky Hall".
In addition to concerts, cabarets, recordings, movie soundtracks, radio and TV he has had speaking and playing roles in many films and BBC-TV productions, where he has also worked as advisor on Romany or Russian music themes for movies such as: "The Man Who Knew Too Little", "The Saint", "Yasha the Liar".
He has lectured on Balalaika, Russian Gypsy music and language at a variety of US Universities, co-authored a BBC radio educational series and written and presented programs on another subject, the Russian singer Peter Lescenco, for BBC World Service.
Apart from solo balalaika albums and various recordings he has recorded several albums with his group "Tziganka".
This highly successful emigre music and dance ensemble has been touring internationally, performing concerts and cabaret, since Bibs founded it in 1975. Some of the group's records have been issued on such labels as "Russkiy disk", Moscow, CBS Israel and "Decca", London.
"Across The Russian Steppes" Album (1978)
Bibs Ekkel with ensemble Tziganka
Arr: Bibs Ekkel
Faina Zinova (vocals)
Bibs Ekkel (balalaika, guitar, piano)
Joshka Sziklafi (accordion)
Robka (c-bass balalaika, percussion)
with the Horsley Choir
Conductor Robin White
Album "Russian Tornado" (1998)
Bibs Ekkel plays balalaika
Bibs Ekkel is one of a small handful of world class players of the balalaika outside Russia. With his virtuoso, flamboyant style he has done much to gain recognition for his amazing, if relatively known instrument. His performance elevate it to concert status, while still maintaining its ties to its ancient folk heritage. "Three stringed wonder", "Russian Tornado" - both descriptions have justifiably been applied to the balalaika. Tuned E-E-A, with one steel, two nylon strings, the balalaika is played not with a pick, but with the fingers. Audiences time and again are amazed at the richness and variety of sound produced by such deceptively simple instrument in the hands of a master. In Bibs Ekkel the balalaika has found a worthy, devoted and tireless champion.