BALKAN BEAT BOX (Israel/USA)
Odd as it may sound but Balkan Beat Box’s Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat are Israeli citizens who met when playing in Brooklyn punk bands. Their only Balkan connection is that of appreciating that region’s music but, hey, in the 1960s the UK produced many a decent suburban white blues musician. Both musicians grew up appreciating an eclectic blend of music – Kaplan learnt classical and klezmer clarinet while Muskat drummed in punk bands – and shifted to the US as their musical ambitions lay beyond Israel’s provincial pop-trance-rap scene.
Finding they shared a desire to create music based on remixing samples with live musicians, the duo began to experiment. Forming Balkan Beat Box, Ori and Tamir compare their musical aesthetic to assembling a gigantic jigsaw puzzle: when a sound they desired could not be found they created their own.
Their self-titled 2005 debut album blends recordings of Balkan brass bands with studio wizardry. The resulting mix of exotic chill-out and dance tracks proved popular with one track, Bulgarian Chicks, becoming a club favourite. Their 2007 follow-up album Nu-Med has found them broadening their sound to include more Arabic and Spanish flavours.
"I describe it as 'Mediterranean dancehall,'" Kaplan suggested of Nu-Med to a US interviewer. "Some people describe it as Balkan-inspired electronic urban folk, with hip-hop beats. It really took the sum of who we are, and our experiences. It can take a month to grow, or just one day."
Not that they are ignoring the now increasingly popular Balkan sound: Nu-Med tracks such as Gypsy Queens and $20 For Boban celebrate the region’s Romany music – the latter being a homage to Serbia’s trumpet legend Boban Markovic. In concert the duo are joined by several musicians while inviting local rappers, musicians and dancers to join them on stage.
"If we discover a special local artist,” says Kaplan of this practise, “sure. In Sweden, we had an Iranian rapper. In France, we had a Moroccan Gnawa musician.” Such an eclectic approach to music making helps push the BBB philosophy of a planet without borders where all share.
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Nina, NYC, Macedonia
Lord Bottletop, Carrboro, NC USA