Saturday, March 13, 2010

Album Review: Blue Eyed Black Boy-Balkan Beat Box

Balkan Beat Box is out to prove why they’re one of the most dynamic acts on the planet with their third full-length album Blue Eyed Black Boy set to be released April 2010 on National Geographic Records in the US and Crammed Discs internationally. Infectiously danceable, uniquely innovative, and politically relevant, Blue Eyed Black Boy is BBB’s best album yet, expanding on their tradition of fusing disparate global elements to create a sound all their own.

When I interviewed drummer-producer-band founder Tamir Muskat in April 2009, he described how their upcoming album would be more personal, how they would express themselves politically and emotionally, something “they hadn’t done before.” True to his word, BBB takes an increasingly political stance in Blue Eyed Black Boy. Balkan Beat Box’s mission is to erase borders and build connections with their music, but never before have they made such outwardly political statements on their records. Songs like War Again, Look Them Act, and Why all speak out against war and institutions of power.

Horn player-co-founder Ori Kaplan, also told me about new rhythms and influences they were incorporating inspired by places in Latin America they’ve performed. Tracks like Balcumbia, Dancing With The Moon, and Marcha De La Vida affirm the exploration of Latin American rhythms and sounds to which Kaplan alluded, but Latin America isn’t the only place BBB has toured extensively that made an impression on them. Buhala features Moroccan musician Hassan Ben Jaffar, incorporating a Gnawan element into their already diverse presentation.

Part of the album was recorded in Belgrade, Serbia and features local musicians from renowned Roma orchestras. Tamir Muskat combines the traditional horns, accordion, and vocals with hard-hitting beats and bass lines to elevate the Balkan flavor to a new level, Balkan Beat Box’s signature sound. Tracks like Kabulectro Smartron and Lijepa Mare all feature ferociously intricate horn, accordian and vocal lines that mesh perfectly with Muskat’s punishing drum and bass lines.

Last but not least, several songs have an unmistakably bluesy, American feel. The album’s title track has some heavy blues guitar as well as Dancing With The Moon and My Baby. My favorite track on the album, Look Them Act, has a strong hip-hop vibe as well. It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with BBB to see American music featured so prominently considering the group came to be in New York City. They’ve often ascribed the multitude of musical influences New York has to offer for the band’s creation and evolution; that evolution is extremely evident on this album.

Balkan Beat Box has already established a noteworthy reputation the world over with their first three albums for creating innovative, original music that combines elements from different parts of the globe. This album builds on that progress, elevating the global music scene to a new level. They are truly unique in their ability to make a powerful statement.


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