Balkan Beat Box

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Reviewed by Daniel Wilson

We live in a global village, where shared experiences are no longer confined to our local surroundings, but where instances of joy or sadness are felt across the world. These shared experiences bind us together into a community far tighter than ever before.

Music probably binds us more than anything. Songs were perhaps the first shared experiences that travelled beyond the village as music has a visceral Balkan Beat Box (5)effect on the human psyche, and can live there for an eternity. Songs punctuate our lives, fill us with joy, give us hope, and make us dream.

Who could forget the first time they saw Buena Vista Social Club at the Astor, or the first time they saw Cat Empire live at the Palais. Each time we hear their songs again we are filled with a sense of knowing that we were alive in that corner of time.

Never has this reviewer felt more connected through time and space than chanting for peace when Balkan Beat Box played live at the Prince. St Kilda’s sweet South Sea breeze carried a Mediterranean inflection that night.

Balkan Beat Box are a high-energy fusion of Israel, New York, and the Balkans, drawing ancient traditions into modern expressions, mixing that folksy saxophone sound with hip-hop, Jamaican dub, dancehall, gypsy electronica, and a timeless rhythmic percussion.

The rave reviews of their live shows are entirely warranted. Not a single person could resist the temptation to start tapping their feet, clapping along, throwing their arms up in excitement, and singing their songs.

Their sounds have been sampled by everyone from Diplo to Jason Derulo. But not only does Balkan Beat Box rock a dance floor like few other bands can, they also manage to convey a message with their music.

The group was formed in Brooklyn more than ten years ago, by Israelis Tamir Muskat, Tomer Yosef and Ori Kaplan. The saxophonist Kaplan spoke to The Australian Jewish News in the lead up to their first tour down under, explaining that growing up in Israel it is hard not to be political.

“We’ve had a Syrian singer, an Iranian, a Moroccan, all of us making music on stage, and that is a message in itself,” Kaplan explained. “I think we represent that silent majority of sane people that think that dialogue is the solution and not resorting to violence so quickly.”

Give, their 2012 album, became part of the soundtrack for the massive social protests in Israel that year, when hundreds of thousands filled the streets demanding abatements on housing, food prices and the cost of living in general – Like the Occupy movement in the United States, tent cities sprang up in Tel Aviv and cities across Israel.

Balkan Beat Box are breaking down barriers in every sense, and in unusual places. When asked by St Kilda News what city they have yet to perform in, they replied, “Beirut would be great if we could”.

The anticipation is mounting for a forthcoming album by the group that is not afraid to be different. “We are working hard on new music now, and aim to finish a new album and three new video clips by summer 2015.”

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