If you ask the members of Balkan Beat Box to describe their sound you’ll get a different answer from each individual; you’ll also likely get a different answer from the individuals if you ask them the same question multiple times. This is partially because BBB’s contemporary cross-cultural musical polyglotism cavorts with many styles, but this is also because the band doesn’t want to be tied to any one answer. They revel in the fact that their influences are worldwide and given equal value, but this is no mere mash-up, this is music made by citizens of a world culture.
Hailing from New York and Tel Aviv, Balkan Beat Box (aka BBB) blend Balkan brass, earth shattering bass, hip-hop and dub electronics to exhilarating effect. Their live shows are explosive affairs, with singer Tomer Yosef delivering his sometimes politicised lyrics with passionate performances always sending audiences into a frenzy. The result is an intoxicating and intense sonic assault which takes no prisoners and makes no apologies for its outspokenness.
Ori Kaplan, Tamir Muskat, and Tomer Yosef burst out of New York City’s underground in the mid-2000s introducing the world to their distinctive brand of music and setting BBB’s reputation as a formidable live act. They became a favorite of audiences and critics alike the world over.
Over four albums the band have constantly explored new musical territory. They’ve visited the Balkan and Mediterranean diaspora of their namesake in 2005’s Balkan Beat Box, 2007’s Nu Med, the Far East with Blue Eyed Black Boy 2010, and produced an exhilarating hybrid of electronic raga on Give 2012. The Independent has called them “deftly programmed global fusion” adding “a band I can’t wait to see live.” Give was widely celebrated in the press, with Songlines saying: ‘BBB are as outspoken and uncompromising as ever. It’s hard to resist the album’s intensity’.
Recently, the band had an intense period of collaborating with other artists such as the Yemenite dance music group A-Wa who are currently hitting the festival circuit, the turnt up rock group Loco Hot, and writing with producers and songwriters around the world. And their horns have been making marks in samples in the pop music world. Balkan Beat Box has much new music in the works, 2016 promises to be their best year yet!
“If BBB is world music, it’s in the most literal sense – because it can move anyone in the world.” - Time Out
For over a decade now, ambassadors of groove Balkan Beat Box have kept the world party bumping with deft and exuberant stylistic cross-pollination, and a smoldering lyrical flow. With each entry in its oeuvre, BBB has crafted wildly imaginative grenades of enlightenment and garnered critical acclaim, an engaged fanbase, and earned the respect and admiration of other artists.
The collective’s latest dance missive, Shout It Out, is an epiphanic entry in its five-album catalog. It’s an album of personal reflection ensconced in fiery creativity—it’s both anthemic and introspective. Musically, Shout It Out, also represents a fascinating crate digging production breakthrough in terms of crafting that perfectly exotic sonic Molotov cocktail.
“We are known to be that band to shout out things that bother us, but this time we went inward and more personal. This album is us revealing who we are as people and what’s going on in our personal life,” says percussionist and producer Tamir Muskat.
BBB draw from their Eastern European heritage, the smash-your-idols traditions of punk rock and free jazz, the undeniably rugged beats and production of hip-hop, the intrepid textural approach of electro, along with international flairs of Mediterranean, reggae, cumbia, Morrocan, and Balkan music traditions. What comes out of this bold cross-cultural and pan-genre discourse is a soundtrack for riots in the streets and a rallying call for the dance floor.
Balkan Beat Box coalesced in the mid 2000s around the core trio of saxophonist Ori Kaplan, percussionist Tamir Muskat, and singer Tomer Yosef. Each of the three musicians in BBB is a visionary with a distinct perspective essential to the BBB vibe. Together in BBB, the trio, plus an extended family of trusted collaborators, have issued five vibrantly varied albums. Their work has been sampled by Jason Derulo, rapper Mac Miller (produced by Diplo), collaborated with Stargate and Fifth Harmony, and their music most recently appeared in FIFA 17 and in the Andy Samberg movie Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. In addition, as a collective and individually, members of BBB have worked with platinum-certified artist Asaf Avidan, Yemeni singing trio A-WA, and had placements in Hollywood feature films.
The BBB album catalog represents a profound artistic continuum that’s high on concept, politics, and authenticity. Each album pulsates with undeniable grooves and its own distinct spirit. Shout It Out represents an intriguing time for BBB. When the core trio gathered in the studio, they found themselves favoring personal lyrics, minimalist production, and a watershed method of creating that involved playing together freely with their close-knit group of musical collaborators for three days straight and then sampling the best bits. Much like a crate digger building tracks from vintage vinyl, they pored over hours and hours of jams seeking choice grooves and bold textures. “A lot of weird stuff came out,” allows saxophonist Ori Kaplan. “We would listen to jams and go ‘oh, here’s a moment, let’s sample it!” and build a track from four bars.
After two weeks of these finding-a-needle-in-a-haystack excursions, BBB crafted the tracks on Shout It Out, using personal experience, and memoir as fodder for thought-provoking lyrics. Each track offers forth its own story, and album highlights include “I Trusted U,” the title track, “Chin Chin,”, “Kum Kum (feat. A – WA)” and “Give it a Tone”. “I Trusted U’s rowdy folk-reggae vibe offers a refreshingly playful approach to its narrative of a relationship plagued by ego issues. Only BBB could make an anthem of self expression like “Shout It Out” with empowering rhymes delivered over glitchy electronic textures and twitchy hip-hop grooves. The grimy funk of “Chin Chin” is vintage BBB, a purposeful party track warning against the allure of urban bling. The infectious “Kum Kum” brims with rugged hip-hop beats, a burly swagger of male vocals paired with sassy and sensual female vocals.
Shout It Out, is a masterwork entry in a decade-long dialogue of three visionaries. Reflecting on the secret to keeping BBB inspired, Tamir Muskat says: “We’ve been able to create this hub of art where we can go into a room, search deep within our souls, and create together. The real mojo behind BBB is our relationships as friends. It’s been an amazing journey.”