This Balkan Beat Box article was written by Viktor Balchikliev, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson
Thursday, 1st of October saw Scala host a well organized celebration of Mediterranean sound, Balkan vibes and Gipsy melodies, featuring Israeli band Balkan Beat Box. Only a few moments away from Kings Cross Station, London, the venue provided the punctuality, perfectly balanced sound and energetic crowd fitted for such colourful event. In return, both the headliner and the support act revealed their full potential and infectiously positive attitude.
The warm-up was cleverly entrusted to Gipsy Hill who describes themselves as “the beast from the middle East”. As the name suggests, their music is greatly influenced by Romani traditions, mixed with Mediterranean sounds and a hint of rock, ska and swing to boost the spectacular combination. It combines the depth of Goran Bregovic’s orchestra with the eccentricity of Gogol Bordello and the energy of Gentlemen’s Dub Club’s live shows. Mostly instrumental, the seven musicians unveiled the full range of their abilities in front of the very responsive multicultural crowd.
Lasting 45 minutes, their set included everyone’s favourite ‘Balkan Beast’ among the many other gems from their albums. Gipsy Hill quickly fired up the show with an arsenal of Gipsy melodies, Turkish songs, traditional Mexican music, and the few swing tracks saw the guitarist touch the crowd with fascinating and emotional singing. The musicians were clearly enjoying themselves and one can only ask, who else might be more suitable to support Balkan Beat Box?
At exactly 21:30 the opening seconds of Balkan Beat Box’s ‘Money’ from their last album ‘Give’ (2012) started the show. Upon jumping on the stage, the very first hit by drummer Tamir Muskat made the crowd explode. Along with him, the core trio consisting of enigmatic singer Tomer Yosef and saxophonist Oli Kaplan were joined on stage by guest guitarist, basist and a DJ, playing the exotic samples of their songs. The opening ‘Part of the Glory’ made all the people at Scala feel like one family and proved once again that Balkan Beat Box are simply unrivaled at building musical bridges crossing traditions, cultural borders and global differences.
The smiles on people’s faces were set throughout the show with Balkan Beat Box playing the best of their new and old albums; a musical journey through the Mediterranean with diverse Balkan rhythms, Middle Eastern sounds, Gipsy punk, funk and electronica. A more dub-oriented version of the hit ‘Move It’ from ‘Nu Med’ (2007) led to ‘Suki Muki’ and ‘Porno Clown’. Frontman Tomer infected the crowd with his enigmatic performance and unstoppable energy, jumping around the stage and tirelessly supporting drummer Tamir with the percussions.
All time favorites ‘Joro Boro’, ‘My Baby’ and ‘Dancing With The Moon’ kept the party atmosphere going, with people singing and clapping on every track. Announcing Oli Kaplan’s birthday made the whole night feel like a personal and emotional celebration for everyone dancing on the sounds of ‘Hermetico’. With no unnecessary breaks, Balkan Beat Box connected with the audience with honest love and apparent enjoyment of their music. Until the end of the evening, the band played ‘War Again’ and a new song from their upcoming album before concluding in spectacular fashion with explosive drum battle between Tamir and Tomer.
With this concert Balkan Beat Box once again proved themselves one of the best in mixing traditional folk music with modern vibes and delivering unforgettable live shows. Along goes the appraisal for Gipsy Hill’s energetic support and the host Scala’s perfect organization of the event.