Balkan Beat Box – Blue Eyed Black Boy

January 01, 1970

(Nat Geo Music)


Probably because founder Ori Kaplan used to be in Gogol
Bordello, Balkan Beat Box has been labeled “gypsy-punk.” But there’s
not much punk on the New York-based trio’s third album, which is modeled
heavily on the loping, polyglot music of Manu Chao (and his former band, Mano
Negra). Blue Eyed Black Boy mashes up
klezmer, Latin jazz, Moroccan trance, hip- and trip-hop, Bulgarian women’s
choirs and — of course — reggae. What has changed this time around is that
the songs are sturdier and the lyrics more earnest.


Emulating Rastafarianism’s frequently child-like politics,
singer-rapper Tomer Yosef informs listeners that war is bad and racism is
wrong: “I try to figure out but I don’t understand/What makes one man
better than another man,” the title song pretends to muse. But the trio
makes the same point more eloquently with its music, an egalitarian blend of
synthbeats and live drums, Eastern and Southern rhythms, baritone rapping and
soprano trilling. The most exuberant numbers dump the homilies in favor of
jaunty horns — including Kaplan’s sax — pumping accordion and
programmer-percussionist Tamir Muskat’s intricate polyrhythms.


Recorded in Tel Aviv and Belgrade, the album features a Serbian Roma
(aka gypsy) orchestra, Jovica Ajdarevic Orkestar, as well as Moroccan Gnawa
musician Hassan Ben Jaffar. Such additions never seem like a stretch. Indeed,
the music is more strained when the band reaches for mainstream appeal with
songs like “My Baby.” Balkan Beat Box triumphs with weird, wild
pile-ups like “Marcha de la Vida” and “Lijepa Mare,” songs
that rollick right past ethnic and political boundaries.


Standout Tracks: “Marcha de la Vida,” “Lijepa Mare” MARK JENKINS




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