Balkan Beat Box

Blue Eyed Black Boy

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Most world music bands concentrate on a mash-up of African, Caribbean, and African American styles, but as you can probably guess from the band's name, that's not the case with Balkan Beat Box. Drummer and beatmaster Tamir Muskat and sax player Ori Kaplan, the band's core members, are both Israeli immigrants and met while they were playing in Gogol Bordello. They've adopted that band's freewheeling feel for fusing disparate Eastern European musics into something that's greater than the sum of its parts. The fractured meters of Balkan music may be pop's last frontier, but by combining them with the familiar pulse of reggae, rock, and hip-hop -- not to mention the gypsy music of the Arab world and the Mediterranean -- Balkan Beat Box has created something unique and eminently danceable. The drumming on Blue Eyed Black Boy was recorded in real time with real instruments, then diced and sampled to give the music the feel of a live gig. With special guests Orkestar Jovica Ajdarevica and the Serbian gypsy band Kal in tow, BBB take their sound to another level of excitement. "War Again" is an asymmetrical bit of Balkan dancehall reggae with MC Tomer Yosef delivering a powerful plea for peace over the massed ompah of the Orkestar Jovica Ajdarevica brass band. Orkestar Jovica is also featured on a couple of instrumentals -- "Balcumbia," adds Arab, flamenco, and cumbia beats to the mix, while "Smatron" gives Orkestar members a chance to show off their chops with lengthy solos delivered over a smooth, funky reggae beat. The title track is a lullaby for Yosef's new son, a lilting reggae rocker with some striking spaghetti western twang. The song's message of tolerance for people of all ethnicities and colors is still more a prayer than a reality, but it's a timely nod to the multi-cultural society we now inhabit. The set also includes the Balkan R&B of "My Baby," the funky Bulgarian salsa of "Lijepa Mare," and "Move It," a dance-happy blend of Punjabi, Balkan, and Jamaican beats. Ten years ago, nobody would have expected Gogol Bordello's gypsy punk music to break into the mainstream, but they signed with Columbia in 2010. Balkan Beat Box has a similar ethos, and the compelling combination of styles they've forged on Blue Eyed Black Boy shows them capable of making the leap from the underground to the A-list.

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