The Trans-Siberian March Band (TSMB) is a London-based Balkan music band. They play the music of the Balkans, and also Russian, Turkish and Klezmer tunes. Their repertoire ranges from the well-known, such as Goran Bregović’s Mesečina, to the obscure. They also write their own material, described by the band as ‘affectionate pastiche’. They are well-known on the London Balkan Music scene, and also have an international reputation due to touring in Eastern Europe. They also have a following in Japan after an appearance on Japanese television.
The band was formed in mid-2007. Band leader and clarinettist Isabella Fletcher formed the group with other musicians from the London Gypsy Orchestra, initially as a side-project from the orchestra. They were joined by musicians from a more traditional brass band. They later made the TSMB their primary musical outlet. Their first public performance was in the summer of 2007 at an open mic spot, as part of an evening of Gypsy/Balkan music. Their first booked gig came soon after.
In addition to playing in many locations in the UK, including Brighton, Bristol, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow and North and South Wales, the band have done 3 overseas tours. In 2008 they played in Vienna, Austria, in Ráckeve, near Budapest, in Hungary, and, in Bosnia, in Maglaj, Mostar, and Sarajevo. In 2009 they played in Kotor, in Montenegro, and again in Bosnia, once again visiting Maglaj, Mostar and Sarajevo. In August 2011 they toured Georgia, playing in Gori, Mtskheta, Batumi and Tbilisi. The band organise the tours themselves, without management or agents, and finance them out of funds earned at their UK gigs. Band members use existing contacts, but also get in touch with promoters and venue-owners on spec, by e-mail or phone.
In 2013, the band began a residency at the Rich Mix venue in London’s Shoreditch area, which continued into 2016. Once a month the band curated a free-entry evening at the venue, which featured other bands – not always limited to the Balkan scene – music and dance workshops and an appearance from the band itself.