Balkan Beat Box has been an international act from the get-go, but now audiences are paying a great deal of attention to the sound collective that hails from Israel, New York, the Balkans and pretty much everywhere else.
Mixing big beat-style electronic rhythms and Balkan folk melodies with lots of klezmer, jazz and rock, the ensemble's eponymous debut album has been making an impression since its release last year (distributed in North America by JDub, best known for having discovered Matisyahu, and locally by Nanadisc).
Arabic chants, animal sounds, Bulgarian crooning, French metal riffs, found percussion and plenty of thumping loops came together to make the disc an infectious success. Fans, critics and DJs alike have become BBB converts, and a follow-up album is slated for release in the fall.
At the helm of the group are Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskrat, two Israelis who have been making waves in the New York underground indie/punk scene (Firewater, Gogol, Shot'nez, Big Lazy) for many years, but it's been through the harnessing of so many international flavors that they've been able to take their sounds to such enormous audiences.
Speaking of his Middle Eastern upbringing, Muskat recently told New Voices magazine, "It's kind of in our blood, these melodies and these grooves."
Currently on tour promoting their new single "Hermetico," which will appear on the upcoming sophomore album, Balkan Beat Box has had a busy summer. The group earned a coveted set at Tennessee's mid-June three-day Bonnaroo Festival, which has in recent years become the premier event for rock and roll in the US, playing alongside legends such as Beck, Tom Petty, Phil Lesh and Friends (what remains of The Grateful Dead), Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth and Radiohead.
BBB spent a good part of July playing festivals in Europe, including major gigs in the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The collective played Tel Aviv's Barby last night to a packed house, and tonight appears in Jerusalem at the Yellow Submarine before spending the rest of August traversing North American clubs.
Balkan Beat Box is scheduled to go on stage tonight at 11 at Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine concrete music palace, 13 Rehov Harechavim in Talpiot. Call (02) 679-4040 or visit www.balkanbeatbox.com for more details and tickets.