Interview with Balkan Beat Box

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By Rubal Khabs


Guess who’s coming to St Kilda? It’s Balkan Beat Box from Tel Aviv!

Founded by Israeli-born; Gogol Bordello’s Ori Kaplan and Firewater’s Tamir Muskat, Balkan Beat Box built their reputation on explosive live shows, especially after the addition of frequent collaborator Tomer Yosef as front man.

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 emerged as a force in New York City’s underground music scene during 2005, with a self-titled album that introduced its Mediterranean-inflected, globalised electronica sound.

As their popularity bloomed so did their musical ambition, and their sound ventured to Belgrade and other points east on the 2010 album Blue Eyed Black Boy, then boiled over with handcrafted beats and samples for the album Give (2012), projecting a harder-edged electronic sound.

Rising in stature their track ‘Bulgarian Chicks’ became widely sampled, but most recently it’s the use of their saxophone riff from the song ‘Hermetico’, in Jason Derulo’s ‘Dirty Talk’, which has shot them further into the mainstream spotlight. BBB Champion the saxophone and it’s their most prominent instrumental voice among the beats, adding spice and exotic harmonies to the hard, eastern-inspired rhythms.

We phoned Tel Aviv and spoke to the guys from Balkan Beat Box. And I must say; it got me really excited for their tour, as I have never seen them perform.


How many musicians are in the band and which instruments do they play?

“[There] are six musicians; playing Drums, Computer, Singing, Sample percussion, Bass, Guitars, and two horns”


Who is the most popular band member?

“There is a triangle player we have behind the stage; he is definitely the star of the show and super popular with the fans”


What inspired the name Balkan Beat Box?

“It was the combination of old folk and new treatment of it. It’s the juxtaposition of these words that worked for this project. Plus we worked with many musicians from the Balkan in different collaborations. But the name does not mean we are bounded to one area”


Have you toured Australia and New Zealand before?

“No, and we are very excited about it. [We] can’t wait to see how people down under react to our sound”


Where was the band’s first public performance?

“In SOB’s in [New York City], it was an amazing first show. We just imagined the band and there it was – Magic!”


When did you record your first single, and how did the fans react?

“[Our first single was recorded] in 2004; Bulgarian Chicks. It still is a signature song [that] we play many times. It kind of put us on the map. Diplo used it as well – sampled from it”


What advice would you give to aspiring musicians that wish to make it big with their music?

“Stick to hard work and very wide scoped thinking, to convey your message through music and visuals. Don’t be afraid to do something different!”


Tell us about your latest and forthcoming music releases

“We are working hard on new music now, and aim to finish a new album and three new video clips by the summer 2015”


Which is your favorite city to perform in, and where do you have the most number of fans?

“There are so many places, people all over the world have been so great, its hard to pick one, but here are some, just to name a few: Paris, Tokyo, Berlin, London. A great show can be anywhere”


Is there a city that you have not performed in and would like to?

“Beirut would be great if we could”


So, get excited, because BBB are on their debut tour and if you haven’t seen them before then here is your golden ticket to being awesome!

But wait, they have some mad support acts too, including: Dubmarine, JackJackJack and our very own St Kilda local; Alma Danza (Rubal Khabs), who recently took St Kilda Festival 2015 by storm at the Go Jam Audio Stage in Catani Gardens.

See you all at the Prince Bandroom on March 12th for a massive jam with Balkan Beat Box!

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