SEE imagined

posted by sab on 2006/09/06 16:41

[ SEE imagined ]

Now where are the Balkans?

One of these days, the i-tunes music store spat out a nice 'balkan' band as one of its innumerable 'best of' and 'top' lists - apart from the not-so-new occurrence of the term 'Balkan' in a positive context (confirming the Balkan-boom in music ), on their site, one can listen to parts of the tracks of the band Balkan Beat Box (BBB), and they are not too bad...fulfilling the expectations of the promise in the word 'Balkan' - a bit of everything, not necessarily only from SEE.

But why 'Balkan', actually? Based in Brooklyn, Israel-born founders, Iranian and Palestinian rappers, the latter on stage in Jerusalem; songs (and the respective vocalists) named 'Bulgarian chicks' (first misleading connotation I had - positive use of the B-word, the band has to come from Bulgaria, no?) - quote:

Borders weigh heavily on the mind of Ori Kaplan, co-founder of the Brooklyn-based band Balkan Beat Box. Musical borders, political borders -- to him, they're one and the same. They're all artificial, man-made, designed to separate.

Ok, that's why - Balkan as the nutshell of the world's conflicts. And, interestingly, it is all about identity, once more - or new definitions of it. In an article in, the opening paragraph reminds us that 'missing identity' is just a starting point (see also the Kosovarian art project):

“We’ve reached a certain period of assimilation and Jewish comfort in America, where forms of ghettoization have gone out the window, except for in religious communities,” says Aaron Bisman, the energetic young founder of the nonprofit JDub Records, awaiting the start of the New York debut of his label’s newest artists, Balkan Beat Box (BBB). “People have no identity remaining.”
BBB is the product of ten years of musical tinkering by New York-based Israeli musicians Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan and their ever-changing cadre of fellow musicians. Their sound draws from a wide array of geographic and stylistic influences: traditional Mediterranean, Balkan, Yemenite sounds, interwoven with dancehall, hip-hop, and rock sounds. Such a mishmash is hardly the first place one might expect young Jews to turn for a new way to connect with their Jewish identity. And yet, this is just the place Bisman has in mind.

Well, the imaginary Balkans-space is constantly growing, at least in music (I am deliberately ignoring the fact that 'Balkans' is apparently also a successful brand name) - maybe due to the idea that there is a bit of 'Balkan' in everybody around the SEE-countries - the charming bit, the mad bit, the enchanting bit:

Muskat, the duo’s percussionist, sees the group as an attempt to reconcile the traditional music of his childhood and the modern music he has played ever since. “In Israel you hear so much authentic Mediterranean, Eastern European music, all over, everywhere you’re going, in the market, on the radio,” he says. “It’s kind of in our blood, these melodies and these grooves.” (...)
With BBB, Muskat says, he has worked to return to the authenticity of the music he had heard as a kid. “For us, the fun is to approach this music in a modern way. We didn’t grow up in any village in Romania, so we got to give it our own twist, which is growing up in the 80s.”

Authenticity and identity everywhere......But, out of date as I always am, some Viennese bloggers have already unveiled the truth behind BBB at their concert in WUK in february:

Yesterday at the WUK: Balkan Beat Box, some New York musicians and two sample machines. Good drive and excellent entertainment, though it has nothing to do with “real” gipsy music, as far as I can say. But does it matter? NO! So we (me, a friend of mine who convinced me to come and about 200 others) have seen East coast musicians with roots in Israel playing what they think is Balkan music (and sounds like a good mixture of Klezmer, hiphop and, what I would call “Serbian tube style saxophone interventions”). It’s all about the fun and hopping around.
And we had fun! (And we were hopping around!) To be honest, I was expecting some Balkan chicks singing; at least that’s what the BBB-website promises. But yesterday there were only men playing. The singer was such a hot looking guy, however, and the man playing the guitar had an astonishing and sharp moustache, I really got my money worth. “Peace to the middle east.” Shalom and come again!
(PS: On my last trip to Bosnia, I discovered some “authentic” Balkan music – when are they coming to Vienna?)

No comment on the gipsy (!) part, but what made me smile is the interesting Viennese connection to the SEE-area, once again. Extending the thought about how we like to party with Balkan tunes and Balkan people as background decoration, I think a friend of mine was on the right track when she said it seems that some Austrians seem to somehow try to incorporate a bit of the 'wild' Balkan spirit they imagine - to brighten up their own, rather dull and mousy idea of Austrian identity? (Btw, the above recommended 'authentic' Bosnian-Balkan Dubioza Kolektiv has a song called 'The Identity' - it's all shaky and break up and down there, quite to the point....)

BBB picture

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The imagineSEE-weblog is a space about ideas, images, (re)inventions and (re)constructions of and about the Balkans, from outside and within SEE.

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This is a part of the collage 'The Black File' by Croatian artist Sanja Ivekovic, who will be represented at documenta 12 (16/6-23/9) in Kassel this year.

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