Gogol Bordello: "Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)"

Boing Boing Video proudly debuts a new music video for the "Gypsy-punk" band Gogol Bordello: "Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)," the new single from Trans-Continental Hustle, the band's latest album, produced by Rick Rubin.

The video was directed by Isaiah Seret and shot in Los Angeles, chronicling the day-to-day life of an immigrant as experienced by the eight members of this multi-cultural rock band. They're from Ukraine, Russia, Israel, China, Ethiopia, Ecuador and Trinidad, so the topic of immigration is one with which they're familiar.

I spoke with lead singer Eugene Hütz about the video, and the "transcultural rock" for which the band is known.

Boing Boing: Can you tell us a bit about how the video came together?

Hütz: It's a video we always wanted to make, because it completes our story. It's very autobiographical, and tells a story about eight people who are all immigrants, who came to pursue something in new york city. That's our biography. But on the other hand, like it coincides with the idealistic belief that people shall always be free to choose the place of their residence. This ties in to the whole movement of worldwide citizenship.

Boing Boing: Worldwide citizenship, what do you mean by that?

Hütz: It's a new idea for a lot of people, but for us it's an old idea. It's an antidote to the politics around the world that have dictated separation and division of communities. Immigration is a crucial part of this idea of world citizenship. In the past, immigration was mostly for economic reasons, or because of natural disaster or war. But now, more and more often it's an intellectual choice, and an important evolutionary process for the planet. More people are committed to being uniters of communities and cultures, to being people who transcend the understanding of different cultures, people who live by the idea that there is no identity but that of a human being.

Boing Boing: You yourself emigrated to the United States in 1991, after residing in various refugee camps for survivors of the Chernobyl disaster.

Hütz: Yes, I did. I have lived in the Ukraine, Italy, the United States, and Brazil, and of course we've traveled so many places as a band now, too. For us as a band, immigration policies— we've been affected by them, we know how imperfect they are and how brutal they can be on people. This song speaks about the double standards that immigration policies have. One of the biggest defects of immigration is the hosting coutnry often makes itself look very inviting at first, and once the migrants are there, they are subjected to super serious hardcore beauraucratic terror for a number of years which does not make them feel very welcome. Anything like that should be resolved, it traumatizes people to the bone.

Boing Boing: While the video explores some heavy themes, it looks like it was actually a lot of fun to make.

Hütz: All the scenes in the video, starting with me washing cars, are all autobiographical experiences. I was a car washer once. And when we shot the video, hey, I made some money that day, polishing my old skills. But no, the scenes were not crafted, they were real locations. No hired actors necessary, everything there is legit.

We kind of wanted to take the viewer through a day of and the tasks of the immigrant community, exactly as it is, including all of the nitty gritty side and including the solidarity of immigrants on the party at night where we as representatives of the Russian community go to East LA, to the Latino neighborhoods there, and make a party for kids with our trans-cultural music.

All the kids that you see there are kids from east LA. All the jobs you see performed, are performed in real life. For us it's a big thing. Our music makes people feel like they're home, whether they're Russians who live in Ecuador, Brazilians who live in Canada—I'm very connected to this world citizenship mentality. It means something to me, and to many of us out there.

Boing Boing: Why do you think the issue of immigration has become so intense and divisive in America right now, and are you trying to address some of that in the song? The drones along the US/Mexico border, all the craziness in Arizona...

Hütz: But it's not just America. The things going on in France and Italy are far worse. This video could have been shot in Moscow, Rome, or Paris, and still ring true. I think politics is a business, and in any business you have positive trends, negative trends. What you are referring to is a kind of current negative trend that has spread, it's an unnecessary hysteria. I didn't write this song right now to respond to the current situation, I wrote the song three years ago before the issue began blowing up in its current form. But these issues are always there. We're connected to them as a band, I am connected to them personally. These issues never go away for us, and they require a deeper solution— a more humanitarian approach than a political approach.

Boing Boing: You've been quoted as saying you hate the phrase "world music."

Hütz: The term itself is just kind of weak and mindless, but that's not the problem. The problem was that it was used wrongly, and misguided listeners for decades, it blocked audiences from being able to hear worldwide rock and roll culture, because anything not in English went into a world music section, like a trash bin that only nerds and geeks bother to go into. A lot of brilliant multicultural rock and roll music, great bands, never reached rock and roll listeners worldwide. I know these bands. Incredible musicians from Brazil, Russia, Italy, France, that end up in the world music section and never found their audience because they don't speak English. "World music" ruined a lot of musician's careers.

Boing Boing: Has the internet helped to undo some of that damage, by helping to connect those bands to new audiences now?

Hütz: Absolutely. It didn't resolve all the problems for us, but it does help communication. The downside is that it multiplies the volume of bad quality recordings and videos out there. There are so many more of them out there now. The sheer volume of material makes it important for people to realize that they must have their own filter, to find really good quality material out there. Filters are more important now.

Boing Boing: What's next for you guys?

Hütz: We're halfway through a big tour: US, Canada, Europe, Latin America. We're taking a little time off right now to chill, but we're really looking forward to getting back out on the road.

Boing Boing: I hope to catch one of the shows! Thank you so much for speaking with us.

# # #

[Watch video: YouTube, or download MP4]



    This is truly a wonderful thing. The meaning of the song/video was tremendous. I love that fighting spirit.

    Thanks mucho, Xeni.

  2. Do yourself a favor and if you ever get a chance to see Gogol Bordello live, do it! They put on an amazing show, high energy and a lot of fun.

  3. Look great! Shows how much easier it’s getting to produce top quality videos.

    Guessing it was shot with an SLR?

  4. Saw these guys in concert a couple years ago. Definitely one of the better shows I’ve been to. These guys rock hard. Unlike most bands you see today, these guys gave everybody more than they came to see. They played until their strings broke, their wine ran out, and the crowd was sweat soaked and exhausted. It’s great to see them take stand on something, and I hope they make the best out of the exposure they’re gonna get from Boing.

  5. THANK YOU so much for featuring this.

    The idea that most of us in America were born from immigrant forefathers is something that has been forgotten by so many of our citizens. It makes me infinitely angry when I hear people say things like “They should learn our language if they want to come here. They need to speak ENGLISH.” English is NOT the native language of our land. The native language of our land isn’t even one language, but several, and very few people speak those languages any more.

    My father’s grandparents immigrated here from Wales. It is absolutely baffling to me that he has an extremely conservative anti-immigration stance when he is only 2 generations from immigrants himself. It amazes me how easy it is to forget for some people that their own families came here, overcame strife, racism, poverty, etc., only to have their grandchildren end up ungrateful for what they did. So ungrateful, in fact, that they insist that others shouldn’t be allowed to enter the country.

    I think that author Peter David put it really well on his blog (www.peterdavid.net):

    “We Need To Put the Statue of Liberty up on ebay

    Because apparently we’re losing sight of this whole “Huddled masses yearning to be free” thing.

    We’ve got Arizona going rogue, targeting people who–let’s face it–don’t look like they should be here. There’s a lunatic ex-governor from Alaska who is challenging the male anatomy of the president of the United States because he’s more concerned about, y’know, following his oath to uphold the Constitution with its pesky illegal search-and-seizure laws than he is about allowing states to grill people based on the color of their skin (even though they claim that’s not what they’re doing, except we all know it is.) And now there’s a movement afoot to try and repeal the Fourteenth Amendment so that people who are born here aren’t necessarily Americans, because (so the claims go) people are coming here specifically to pop out children who will become American citizens.

    I mean, considering how many people around the world are being taught that America sucks, you’d think we’d be flattered that people would want to come here seeking better lives for themselves.

    So if this keeps up, then yeah, let’s just auction off Lady Liberty, because if we’re not going to attend to the principles she represents, then isn’t it kind of false advertising having her there? At the very least, perhaps we should redesign her so that rather than holding aloft a torch, instead she has a middle finger extended to greet those huddled masses yearning to be deported back whence they came.”

    1. I am glad to read your comment and know that there are people like you who think this way in your country, this also applies to other places France, Spain, sometimes forget our past history where we come from, this band did not know her and I think interesting philosophy.

    2. There was no “nation” here before the American forefathers established the United States.The children of those men are, in fact, “native” to the U.S, and so is anyone who was born here after its establishment. We, like every other first world nations, have a right and a duty to protect the interests of those citizens.Those interests might include controlling who comes into our nation. IT’s really not that difficult once you drop the white guilt programming. The only people who truly want open borders are those who want cheap and easily disposed of labor.

    3. i don’t believe i could have said it more simply. knowing you exist somewhere will help me put off becoming the next unibomber for a little while longer.


  6. Amazing band had me hooked since I saw them on Later… with Jools Holland. They are phenomenal live and can not wait to see them again in October. Keep the fight going from all borders.

  7. I love this band, and have seen then many many times. From them I learned to wear hard-toed boots if I’m going to be in a mosh pit.

    From the Wikipedia article on Hutz:

    Hütz’s road to the United States was a long journey through Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy. Descendants of gypsies called the Servo Roma (a tribe known for its blacksmiths, horsetraders and musicians), Hütz and his family fled their hometown after hearing of the Chernobyl meltdown. Enduring a seven-year trek through East European refugee camps provided Hütz with an immigrant experience that is reflected in his songwriting. However, it is Hütz’s Roma and Ukrainian background that is his central inspiration, influencing his lifestyle and the music of his band Gogol Bordello. Hütz arrived in Vermont in 1991 as a political refugee through a resettlement program with his mother, father and maternal cousin Yosef.

    I always thought he was actually born in Vermont. Now I definitely see him in a different life. I guess he’s quite qualified to sing about immigration…

  8. To bad you only touch on the subject of France and Italy. The massdeportation and internment of romanis in France and in many places of Europe is becoming more and more dark and vicious for every day that passes. In Italy police assisted mobs attacking romanis and in Rumania they put them in camps. Its the same everywhere.

    Also with the amount of right wing anitimigration groups around here in the EU it in itself is scary. Here (Sweden) the election is in three days and it seems that we will have an extreme right party in government aswell.

    One of the speakers at the anti-mosque rally in NY is the leader of the dutch right wing anti-immigration party the PVV and he was introduces as “the new Abraham Lincoln”

    1. Where did you ever see Romanians (please note the spelling!) putting gypsies in camps? Methinks you’re confusing the country.

      Some Romanians may wish they could put gypsies in camps (and not call them “Roma”, either, because that leads to confusion), but that has never happened. Stop spreading disinformation.

  9. Wow, that was awesome and I don’t generally trend toward punk. Love the lyrics.

    As a people that are so proud of their ancestry sometimes, it baffles me to no end how anti-immigration we’ve become. How sad.

    Re: the maze-like quality of immigration. I have no idea how people ever navigate this. My husband’s former boss and his family are originally from India via Zimbabwe. Because there had been some errors on their part (they fully own it) in filing things timely, Immigration wanted to send the 19- and 21-year old kids back to Zimbabwe, to a place they’d not lived in since they were in elementary school and had no means to support themselves. I mean, c’mon, ZIMBABWE!!? They ended up having to apply for asylum in Canada (which they got) and are now in Toronto trying to work through the convolutions of Canadian immigration law. At least they have family there to help them.

  10. I didn’t really grasp the lyrics until I saw the video. I’ve been listening to this album since it’s been released on day 1, and I find it even better than Super Taranta! Even though the bass drops aren’t as fucking fantastic (ie, Super Theory of Super Everything… I think), the songs are so beautifully written. Seriously BoingBoing, You’ve outdone yourself here.

  11. thanks for the searing video Xeni! It is raw, honest and speaks with a thunderous roar. My ancestors were not welcome in this land, I’d like someone to tell me who’s were.

  12. Gogol Bordello is great, I’ve seen them live twice, both amazingly funny and energetic concerts, right there on my top list.

    And Eugene is such a great guy! Very funny and friendly. I was at this small club once where he sang a couple of songs with this other band, and eventually I got pretty drunk and went outside for a fag. In the rain.
    He was there doing the same thing while waiting for a cab, and noticing my state, offered me a lift home. Very kind of him. But I stayed a little bit more.

  13. I find some of their work is getting a bit more contrived and self-similar, not quite as creative as the earlier albums.

    But it’s still great.

  14. Growing up as a second generation Russian/Romanian in the USA during the cold war, the key-word for coping in the “melting pot” was “homogenize”. If your bloodlines originated from the “Evil Empire” one didn’t brag about it – one didn’t wear a button that proclaims “Kiss me, I’m Russian”. One most likely forgot about ones heritage… and the family history became some vague constellation in an extraterrestrial sky. If one wanted to become “famous” one changed their surname; it was that simple. Immigrants were welcome only if they were ready to accept menial jobs… doing work that nobody else cared to do. When my father was a young man he wanted to be an artist, but this was during the depression and my grandfather burnt all his sketchbooks, convincing him to be practical. So my father worked in a factory for 45 years. Hey, you might say, at least he had a good pension. But it cost him his voice.

    I think what I find most refreshing about Gogol Bordello is that they give a voice, not only to contemporary immigrants, but to all those immigrants of the past who somehow lost their voice, their heritage… and their stories. They were too frightened to “Come Rougher”. But, I think they’d all have been uplifted hearing this song! Thanks, Xeni!

  15. I think their latest album is perhaps their best, and amongst my favorite of 2010 thus far.

    They used to come to Ottawa often enough, but no new tours dates here for the past few years. This town needs some Trans-Continental Hustle, and maybe a little Super Taranta!

  16. What does it mean to “come rougher (every time)”? Is it a good thing?

    It makes it sound as if he ‘s saying “Immigrants are getting scarier every year! Booga booga!” … which is more or less exactly what the xenophobes in the US and other developed nations have been saying. Unless he’s just parodying their attitude, it seems like an odd hook-line to use in an appeal for respect and fair treatment.

    It’s a good song, though: one to set metaphorically alongside Manu Chao’s Clandestino.

    1. I took it as meaning that they’re not trying to assimilate, like people discussed above–that immigrants are staying true to who they are, where they come from, rather than trying to disappear into the melting pot.

    2. Manu Chau used to be /in/ gogol bordello.

      and i think the lyric coming rougher every time means a combination of things: it could be a reference to increasing hardships when trying to migrate to different country through legal or illegal methods, or it could be a word to the toughness of character required to go through such a process.

    3. “we comin’ rougher” is a line Eugene picked up from a French “pungle” band named La Phaze, from a song called “La Fièvre de l’Exil”, pretty much on the same theme, only francocentric, Eugene often went on stage to perform it with them when La Phaze opened for gogol a few years ago.

      As for what it means, I imagine the other comments to be right, that he and other immigrants are no longer going to forget who or what they are.

  17. One thing I’ve always wondered about Gogol Bordello – is it just me, or does the melody of “Start Wearing Purple” sound exactly like “I Love Paris” by Cole Porter?

  18. Ooh nice catch, BB. Great album too and i can also recommend seeing them live, i guarantee you won’t ask for your money back. They are loud and somewhat intimidating but after witnessing what they do you wouldn’t want it any other way.


  19. I love this video. We are going to see them this tour, and I’m so excited. I’ve heard great things about them and everyone here who has seen them seems to confirm that.

    C White- I got it, and at first I didn’t like it as much as Underdog World Strike, but it’s grown on me, and has probably become my favorite by GB. A good solid album from start to finish. Pala Tutu is such a wonderful song…

  20. I’m glad to read some comments like mellowkneesy and know that there are people like you who think this way in his country, sometimes forget our past history where we come from. This band did not, and I find it interesting philosophy. This also applies to other places where the expulsion of Romanian Gypsies from France or The arrival of immigrants today in boats to Spain.

  21. This is going into my mix, beside “Fortress Europe”- Asian Dub Foundation.

    Most inspiring and interesting music I’ve heard today, same they’re either not hitting Toronto or if they did I missed them. maybe if I’m lucky I’ll catch them in Köln?

  22. I just wanted to say I agree with dia sobe. I’m 3rd generation Hungarian, and it’s sad that so much culture from these countries has been lost. Granted, my grandparents lived in a Hungarian community, but so many traits were lost, especially the language. My great-grandmother spoke almost exclusively Hungarian, yet my father learned very little, even though she lived with him and my grandparents for quite some time. We still go to the “old neighborhod” in Toledo every winter to stock up on hurka and kosonya, but it doesn’t make up for what has been lost. Thank you, Gogol Bordello. Egeszsegedre!

  23. Please Eugene come back to France, I’m so ashamed of what this country is becoming (and worse part, I’m half Italian, can you think of something worse than being French and Italian today ?).

    What about doing massive free gigs on a truck at every place Police come to throw out Traveling People (’cause it’s not only Roms, also any Gypsy or even French living on the road are targeted …).

    BTW, this brainless Sarkozy is Hungarian from his father …guess it shows us that immigration bring us good and bad (and ugly too …)

    Hope my english is not to bad to express myself on those sensitive matters ;)

  24. I not only believe governments should not dictate where people live, I also believe that governments should not dictate where people live.

    In other words, I believe that “third-world” immigrants have the right to move to move here and I also believe that “first-world” immigrants have the right to move there. That latter process is often called colonialism and some people object to it.

    In other words, I disapprove of both “Mexicans go home!” and “Americans go home!”

  25. Gogol freaking rocks. Eugene and the band are among the best live performers you will ever see and they deserve all of their success. As a band of immigrant gypsies from around the world their music is an inspiration to all citizens of the world! Keep rocking – your show in Vermont this summer was amazing. Took my kids and the whole family rocked – A LA FAMILIA!

  26. What he says about the “world music” label is really interesting, I’d never thought about the effect that might have before.

    Also love the Dylan “Chimes of Freedom” reference in the song. A sad answer to the idealism of the past.

  27. love the newest video…saw you play in Australia, Byron Bay earlier this year. I’m a big fan..and an immigrant musician as well.

    Can you do a song about the expulsion of the Gipsys from France in particular and the plight of refugees in general.Django Rheinhaardt would turn in his grave.Alsio like the kafka reference.

    Well done

  28. Gotta say, I loved the video! Gogol Bordello is my “alive” favourite band (band thats still playin’)! This is my favourite song in the new album and I loved the way they played it at the Optimus Alive ’10 festival (in Portugal). Sure wish I had get a ticket to saw them live, I had to watch a bit on TV and YouTube :/
    With all the mess thats been happening in France, yeah, this is the best time to release a videoclip that all immigrants around the world can use as an anthem!

  29. Gogol Bordello is the greatest rock and roll punk whatever label you want to put on it to ever step on planet earth, great energy and even better, great ideas, these guys are great human beings for putting the spotlight on stuff like this. GREAT VIDEO! LONG LIVE GOGOL BORDELLO!!!

  30. Ever since I had come across the “American Wedding” video,a few years, I have been hooked on Gogol, there’s not enough words to say how much I love Gogol. The band is opening doors in such a way that’s right in your face and not masking what they’re really trying to say.

  31. Everyone thinks that they are the last ones that are going to move into the neighborhood. As a tax payer though, I do dislike shouldering the burden of paying for a portion of the needs of some who are capable of earning their own way. So do I blame the waves of imigrants that are pouring over the boarders or the politicians that provide many of them with the means to stay without contributing to the benefit of the whole? My mother emigrated to the US from Ukraine at the end of WW2. She and my father (whose parents also came to the US from another country)never held out their hands for assistance. I think that this is the line that, today, splits many first wave diaspora from the newer imigrants. To my immigrant brothers I say, there is plenty of room here. You are welcomed. Please though, earn the privilage of being an American. That goes for all of our youth who were born here and are walking around with a fabricated sense of entitlement.

  32. I was not as impressed by their previous work, but this song and video are closer to the Clash than anything I have heard in a long time. Catchy, political, and Honest. And it rocks

  33. Ladies and Gentlemen, *that* is the face of punk right there, pure and simple.

    God bless em and more power to em.

  34. I appreciate the song and the video, but I noticed something that is quite misleading. In fact, it came about when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court. She was identified as an immigrant, however, she is Puerto Rican. The video included an “immigrant” from Puerto Rico. PR is a territory of the United States, so Puerto Ricans are Americans. Just wanted to point that out.

    1. In June, Hutz and four other Bordellians showed up at NPR for a Tiny Desk Concert. My God!

      SET LIST:
      “Immigraniada (We’re Comin’ Rougher)”
      “My Compenjara”
      “Pala Tute”
      “Start Wearing Purple”

      NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts are a national treasure at times. This Gogol Bordello feature and the one with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are my favorites!

  35. There is a fundamental irony in radical positions like the one being promoted here, by Boing Boing, and it lies in the idea that a Nation shouldn’t have a right, or an obligation, to control who comes into the Nation, but it does have an obligation to protect the rights of and proved services to anyone who happens to cross the border.
    That system is truly untenable; maybe that’s what guys like the self-confessed “creative nihilist” frontman of Gogol Bordello are pushing here.
    The very premise of the Nation-State is rendered moot if you truly believe ( and all it requires is great privilege, or a great sense of jealous entitlement to believe, it seems) that borders should be a thing of the past.

  36. Historically nomadic peoples have as much right to their historical territories as settled peoples. Nation states are crude anachronisms rooted in xenophobia.

    1. The onus is on you to describe how the protections ( economic, legal, etc.) that modern Nation States provide would be maintained in the vacuum Nation States would leave behind, should they be destroyed. Who’s values win out? Do you really imagine that some kind of progressivist utopia would take root in a borderless world? Do you honestly believe that the coercive power of the police, or other state agencies, would no longer be required, or that a non-state group would not assume those powers?
      Or, do you imagine that some kind of enlightened world government will simply look at your wish list for a just society and say “done! next..” .
      Both are delusions. The Nation State offers the only possibility for guaranteeing any form of rights; rights are only based in the rule of law. Who enforces the law? Saudi princes? Dutch anarchists? Kofi Anon? You?
      Why do you imagine so many immigrants want to come to the first-world west, if it’s not to enjoy the benefits that these Nation States bring? If they truly wanted some kind of anarchist rainbow situation, they could move to the wilds of Africa, or the mountains of Khazakstan.
      No, they want to live in Brooklyn, or Toronto, where the children of the privileged go to run up credit card debt before they land media or academy jobs and are able to afford affectations like believing in a borderless world.

      1. Why do you imagine so many immigrants want to come to the first-world west, if it’s not to enjoy the benefits that these Nation States bring?

        Funnily enough, huge countries like the US and conglomerations like the EU are, as political entities go, farthest away from being nation states. The US allows people of varying nationalities, cultures and language groups to roam free across three thousand miles of varied terrain and economic opportunities. The EU now approaches something similar. You’ve demolished your own argument. It is the very dissimilarity to the classic nation state that makes the US and Western Europe so desirable for those seeking opportunities.

  37. But the U.S and the E.U are either Nation States or made up of Nation States, right? These nations have the ability to set the policies that ( right or wrong) have made their Nations desirable locations for would-be immigrants. This would not be possible without the ability of the Nation State to set policy and enforce laws, including immigration laws.
    You also must consider the conditions that brought about prosperity in first world countries. It certainly happened long before the E.U , the U.N and other Globalist arrangements came into being. You’re argument is all the more ridiculous if you consider the shape the E.U is in after existing for such a short time. It’s a disaster.
    Why seemingly “progressive” people would cheer for the Globalist wet dream of endless, easily transportable , cheap labor, I have no idea.
    Do you really think the kind of economy that has lots of brown, illegal servants cleaning the Mcmansions of mutual-fund/credit bubble whores is a sustainable one?
    If you feel guilty about the wealth of the West, the best thing you can do is try to invest in developing Nations; destroying the conditions that bring about our ability to help will hurt everyone.

  38. OK I don’t know what just happened with my computer but what I wanted to say was…the image quality of this video was amazing. It’s the best I’ve ever seen on the internet (neo-Luddite and with my little laptop) The content and performance were the standard most excellent coming from Gogol Bordello. They rock super hard!!! Nice interview. I’m one of the “nerds and geeks” that searched for “world music” starting as a kid in the late 1960s and discovered much cool music. Back then it was a lot of ethnomusicology field recordings. I hear what he’s saying but the phrase served its purpose back in the day. Now that “world music” is recognized as being too small a word for all it covered, the world is ready to learn more specifically what was in all those record bins. AND, the world is getting smaller every year as music fans get more receptive to hearing/buying music that isn’t in their native language or English. The internet and You Tube has blown this up bigtime and I’m very grateful for what I can find online. It IS a small world afterall.

  39. “This video contains content from Sony Music Entertainment, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”
    Oh, the irony!

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