Gizem Altinordu was born in Istanbul and grew up in Thrace region in Turkey. Her first interactions with music also started here at a young age. During high school she wrote music critiques in various magazine and by playing in the rhythm orchestra of the university, she started to be a professional musician. During her journeys, she spent a long time in Africa, in the Balkans, Iran, and India, collaborating with many musicians. She performed with bands like Andan İçeri, Mızıkçı Melodiler and contributed to their albums. At the same time as her musical career Gizem was deeply involved in Shadow Theater. She took part in Karagöz plays in Ankara as both a puppeteer and a musician. She is currently performing as a vocalist and percussionist within Raka, Naml and Near East Collective in London.
Growing up in a house of seven in the fen lands of Norfolk, Austin was consigned to the string section in the interests of keeping the family peace. As soon as he hit the road to London he started honking on bigger and bigger things until gaining access to a dubiously acquired tuba through the hands of Josh Middleton. Cutting his bassline teeth with Yoshke and the Wolves, leading UK brass band BYOB, mainstay of dub reggae outfit General Skank and a few other pots on the boil, playing with Raka is the biggest test of his springy diaphragm.
Lucy started playing the clarinet from the age of 10 in Japan where she lived as a child. She has studied Balkan music and jazz in Belgium and London, and traditional Bulgarian folk under Bulgarian maestros in Plovdiv. She has toured playing festivals and venues across the UK and abroad.
Ben Pitt is a London based Viola and Gadulka player, with a dedication to East European folk music and particular interest and experience in Bulgarian folk music. As a Graduate in Music at Sussex University, Ben’s professional training over the three years was at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Over the more recent years he has reiteratively traveled to Bulgaria to learn from masters of the style, Angle Dobrev from Zornitsa Orkestra and Atanas Slavov-Mravcho as well as study at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts in Plovdiv. As a performer Ben has collaborated with many musicians form projects such as; Barcelona Gypsy Balkan Orchestra, Tantz, Bucimis, and Don Kipper. Ben has studied with Dzambo Agusevi Orkestar and has taught at the London Fiddle Convention.
Josh Middleton is an accordionist and composer specialising in Klezmer and East European Folk styles. He has been performing music professionally since the age of 14, graduated from the School of Oriental and African Studies with a first class degree in Ethnomusicology, and has since been intensively studying both Klezmer and Bulgarian music, the latter at the Academy of Music, Dance and Fine Arts, Plovdiv. Josh has worked with many Klezmer and Balkan music ensembles such as She’koyokh, The London Klezmer Quartet, Tatcho Dorm, Raka and Don Kipper, has shared a stage with Klezmorim such as Frank London and Merlin Shepherd, taught at Klezfest London alongside Klezmer scholars such as Alan Bern and Joel Rubin, and recorded for artists as diverse as DJ Vadim and Kadialy Kouyate.
Professional Saxophonist and Clarinettist specializing in the folk/world music scene in London. John studied on the prestigious BA Jazz course at Leeds College of Music (2010), and recently graduated from the MA Music Performance course at SOAS (2017) with distinction. Having played with many leading ensembles and musicians including, Guinean Griot; Mosi Conde, Nigerian Afrojazz band, 'Ayetoro', Afrofunk band 'Bronzehead', and Croatian Big Band 'Mimika', John has also worked in theatre(the London Bubble, Nick Cassenbaum, Viva Productions), and done various sessions for TV and film(Bleach Productions). Over recent years John has focused his energies on Klezmer and Balkan music. Having studied with leading musicians including Merlin Shepherd, Susie Evans, and Frank London.
Lori Secanska is an experienced vocalist, performer and a session singer, originally from Slovakia. She collaborated with many world music and experimental projects all over Europe, was a member of an international choir Apsora led by a Roma singer Ida Kelarova, a lead singer of a 40-piece ensemble London Gypsy Orchestra and recorded vocals for an award winning independent film 'Never let Go'. She performed at many international festivals and venues such as Pohoda Festival(Slovakia), Ealing Jazz Festival(UK), Union Chapel, Southbank Centre and St James Theatre(UK). Lori currently performs with a klezmer band Oysland and a balkan band Raka.
Matt Holborn is an improvising violinist based in the London. Performing in many capacities throughout the country and beyond. In the gypsy jazz and swing circuit Matt has appeared at many international festivals and venues such as Festival Django Reinhardt de Samois (France), Torino Jazz Festival (Italy), Pizza Express Jazz Club and Ronnie Scotts (UK). Matt currently plays with his own jazz project Latchepen and Klezmer band 'Tantz'.