“The soundtrack for a new NYC”, a few words with Balkan Beat Box
Tel Aviv, New York, the Balkans. Or if you prefer, the Balkan Beat Box. Pioneers of the contemporary world music, the three Israeli musicians have become something more than just a music group. They mix their unbridled passion for brass bands with hip-hop rhythms and electronic music: that’s why they are, to date, the emblem of the new Mediterranean sounds. Balkan Beat Box means a bridge that joins tradition with innovation, to connect the most distant parts of the planet and put a stop to injustices produced by this system increasingly in crisis. Exclusively for Outsiders Musica, we interviewed Ori Kaplan, saxophonist and former member of Gogol Bordello, who reveals what is hidden behind the project Balkan Beat Box.
Let’s start from the beginning. What pushed three Israelian artists to the sounds coming from Eastern Europe?
Eastern Europe is also the traditions of some of us. Tamir’s mother is Romanian and my whole family comes from Polish and Russian lands. For us it is easy to connect with these countries as we have in the back of our ears a lot of musics of the past somehow, but then again we connect threads back to the middle east and don’t claim to be a regional music, specific place’s music.
Today, if you think of Balkan Beat, you think of a specific music genre, that starts from the Balkans and gets to the Middle East. Do you think you are, in some way, the pioneers of this music?
We made our mix which is very much about the three personalities which sit together and work together, we call it BBB esthetic, it’s something very open though. I think that people recognize that it’s beyond a certain trend, so a good sounding album you keep, it becomes a classic. At the time there were not too many bands exploring these worlds, the mix of sound system electronica with traditional middle eastern culture and balkan etc., so indeed a lot of bands and musicians tell us we inspired them and opened up their world. It was the sound track for a new NEW YORK for us.
What’s your relationship with the traditional Balkan music? And with the brass bands?
Brass, oh well. I play horns so its a total connection and love of brass. I was obsessed for a long time with Roma horns. The sound is intense and heartfelt at the same time, straight to your heart and your guts.
Is music business definitely living a period of crisis?
Yes. Until new ways are found to distribute the music, a way which goes back to the musicians and whom ever produces the music with the band. Or do like us which is play live and mostly this is how we survive.
In which countries are you most appreciated?
France, all over Europe, USA, and all the big cities. Recently in Buenos Aires and Colombia, Mexico , Japan , each one can be special in its own way.
Can you tell us something about your future projects?
We just finished working on a new album, which we hope will further push the envelope and be fresh , something we have not done before. It was a great experence making it. The name of the album is Give and its due out on crammed end of feb.