Written By: Fletcher Bonin
Though they originated in New York City, Balkan Beat Box’s sound is truly global. The band, founded in 2003, is comprised of three core members: Tamir Muskat, Ori Kaplan, and Tomer Yosef. Technically, they are an Israeli music group. However, their music is a blend of Jewish, Middle Eastern and Eastern European styles. Were this not enough exoticism for one musical group, they are also heavily influenced by Mediterranean music. These influences combine for a fascinating and dynamic sound. They meld aspects of reggae, Gypsy punk, electronica and funk for a truly unique musical character.
Their 2010 release Blue Eyed Black Boy perfectly encapsulates their original and vibrant sound. With fourteen tracks totaling fifty-four minutes, this album is a surefire party soundtrack. With bleating horns, steady percussion loops and Tomer Yosef’s crooning vocals this album sounds kind of like if the Black Eyed Pea’s did less mainstream, more global music. On some tracks, the reggae vibes outshine the jazzy horn play, while other tracks are pure funk. Taken as a complete composition, Blue Eyed Black Boy is undeniably dance music. I don’t mean club grinding type dance music. I mean dance floor, fun wedding type dance music. Balkan Beat Box’s sound is upbeat and fun, featuring old school instrumentals in post modern arrangements.
My favorite track is ‘Dancing With the Moon’. Starting out slow, this song has a certain roots reggae feel that I am really enjoying. Yosef sings the refrain over a selling horns section, “so put on the record that we used, to listen to when we found the truth.” This song begs for head bobbing and hip shaking, blending reggae and funk’s best aspects into one truly groovy track.
I’m also really digging the track entitled ‘Why’. This song is a little more Middle Eastern in sound with steady percussion hits, rhythmic background chants and blaring horns. Yosef sings in a strained voice that he makes somehow pleasingly melodic, “I had enough of them, the only winners in this game…come and be the new beginner he says no loser he’s no winner.” Their lyrics, when decipherable are thoughtful and fascinating.
Balkan Beat Box has a sound like nothing I’ve ever listened to before. In all honesty, I usually see the genre of ‘world music’ and skip over it, expecting it to be variations on the same latino-pop song. I now realize just how wrong this is! Check out Blue Eyed Black Boy for a drastically original sound.