For the past two years Nu Med, Balkan Beat Box’s last album, was my ultimate upper. The minute I played it on my MP3 I would jump up and down like a happy monkey. Now, a new album titled Blue Eyed Black Boy is coming out, accompanied by two live shows in Jerusalem. I sat down to talk to Ori Kaplan, the band’s saxophonist and one of its founders, to ask what they have been doing since Nu Med.
“In the last two years we have established our status in the world through performances everywhere,” Kaplan said. “We performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people. In Mexico City, for example, we played for 65,000 people at the city square. We performed in France, had an amazing tour in Japan, and an incredible show on Earth Day in Tel Aviv at Rabin Square in front of 35,000 people. Also, a documentary following our shows and recordings has been made.”
Kaplan founded BBB with percussionist Tamir Muskat. They both grew up in Israel but met in Brooklyn. Both were part of NYC’s underground music scene, playing in bands such as Gogol Bordello, Big Lazy and Firewater. After coming together with Uri Kinrot on guitar and sax, Dana Leong on trombone and others, they released their first album in 2005. For their second album, MC Tomer Yosef, who sang some songs on their first album, officially joined the band.
Kaplan defines their style as Gypsy-rock with a touch of Mediterranean combined with New York beats. And it’s a sound like no one else’s.
“Tamir throws a beat, I bring a tune. Tomer adds lyrics. We are all melody masters and we all sit together to try to see how we can achieve perfection,” Kaplan tries to explain. “It’s not a musical jam, it’s fabricated work. But the atmosphere is always great. We all live in different countries and when we meet to record there is something exciting, even holy, in the air.”
For the latest album, BBB went around the world, bringing other talents on board along the way.
“Every song is a story, an adventure,” says Kaplan. “We have an enormous net of resources – Myspace, our website; in Mexico we met Netzach, a half-Israeli half-Mexican MC; in Belgrade we brought on gypsy brass players from the villages. Prior to our arrival [in Belgrade] we exchanged MP3 tracks with [the players]. We rented an old TV studio and they played with us. We taught them our music and they gave it their own interpretation.”
After attending their last show about a year ago, I titled them the greatest performers in Israel, perhaps in the world. But it seems the upcoming performance is going to be even greater. In addition to the regular groove, video visuals will be added through a collaboration with Kutiman, who created the amazing project Thruyou (check it out at thruyou.com).
Kaplan is excited about the show: “It is going to be incredible.
Besides Kutiman and Dessilara Stefanova, our favorite Bulgarian singer
is going to be there, and the legendary Shlomo Bar from Habreira
Hativit. He comes into a solo beat, then enters a shuffle, while Uri
Kinnorot accompanies him. But I don’t want to reveal too much. It’s
going to be cool, interesting and refreshing. That’s what we always
BBB take the stage on February 3 and 4 at Hangar 11 on 9 p.m Tickets are NIS 149. For more information call (03)769-4747.