Techno Fusion from Balkan Beat Box Balkan Beat Box fuses clarinets and horns with hypynotic trance music and a techno beat. The band's Israeli-born founders Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat tell Jacki Lyden about their first-ever CD.
NPR logo

Techno Fusion from Balkan Beat Box

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Techno Fusion from Balkan Beat Box

Techno Fusion from Balkan Beat Box

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of rooster crowing)

Unidentified Woman: Dance.

(Soundbite of music)


The sound of a band, Balkan Beat Box, is reminiscent of a nostalgic moment when the circus came to town with dancing ladies and slide trombones. Only the dancers here are belly dancers, and the saxophones and brass we call the Klezmer tradition of going from town to town to weddings and funerals. The Israeli-born artists who founded this band live in Brooklyn today. They've used clarinets and horns. But they're also techno, with hypnotic trance music and ululating. This summer they released their first ever CD, called the "Balkan Beat Box." We're joined in our New York studio by the band's founders, Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat.

Welcome to both of you.

Mr. ORI KAPLAN (Balkan Beat Box): Thank you.

Mr. TAMIR MUSKAT (Balkan Beat Box): Thank you.

LYDEN: What's up with the rooster on the cover of your CD? And it's the very first thing. We just heard it in the music at the top.

Mr. KAPLAN: Oh, well, the roosters name is Loco and he's kind of our neighbor. He sort of lives a couple of blocks from us and right by Williamsburg, Bushwick. Yeah, right under the J&P train. So we found him...

Mr. MUSKAT: Very handsome for a Brooklyn rooster, as you can see.

LYDEN: And he's escaped the pot, as I can see and hear.

Mr. KAPLAN: Yeah, you know, they're very proud of his recent publicity.

LYDEN: Ori Kaplan, you grew up in Jaffa, Israel, did you?

Mr. KAPLAN: In Tel Aviv, but I was--I went to school in Jaffa as a kid to a conservatory there. So it's about 10 minutes walk from each other, really.

LYDEN: You call Israeli music a melting pot. What do you mean by that? What's it a melting pot of?

Mr. KAPLAN: I guess when both of us grew up, there were all kinds of music surrounding us constantly, from Arabic music to Eastern European music, Klezmer tradition, Farsi music, Bulgarian music, Turkish music. It was just all around. That's--immigrants came from the Sephardic immigration and Eastern Europeans as well. Both cre--stayed in their own community and infused as well, so it's a big mosh.

LYDEN: Tamir, you're the son of Romanian immigrants to Israel. Tell us more about the Balkan link and the Balkan themes that we hear in the music.

Mr. MUSKAT: My mom came from Romania to Israel with a big immigration. You know, everybody, almost, in Israel came from somewhere--well, like America, but a bit later on. Most of our parents are not from Israel and they--our friends or our generation's friends. The connection to the Balkan is, well, it was--you know, Klezmer music is very similar. It's kind of coming from the same places and we're just--it was there. It was there when my grandma played music, and it was there when we grew up and just listening to radio. And...

Mr. KAPLAN: Yeah, we had to rebel for a long time. It's not like...

Mr. MUSKAT: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You know, you had to kind of hate everything that your parents played at home.

(Soundbite of music from "Balkan Beat Box" )

LYDEN: Well, you talk about rebelling and having to go through that, but you're also credited with producing trash metal records in your basement studio at home as a kid.

Mr. MUSKAT: Yeah, that was part of my youth, definitely. And you know, it always was a mix of some kind of a Mediterranean-oriented music into trash metal or electronic music. To be honest, I don't think any of us was really interested in going and recreating authentic folk music. We thought that there's people out there in some Romanian villages that can do it much better than us. The big search was how are we incorporating this into something fresh and new, and something that has the tone of our generation in it?

(Soundbite of music from "Balkan Beat Box")

Balkan Beat Box: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: There's one song on this CD that in many ways serves, I think, as a really good example of all the influences that we've been talking about. Let's listen to a little bit of one called--I hope I'm pronouncing it right--"Adir Adirim."

Mr. MUSKAT: "A...

Mr. KAPLAN: "Adir Adirim."

LYDEN: All right.

(Soundbite of "Adir Adirim")

Balkan Beat Box: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. KAPLAN: This is actually a prayer from the Shavuot...

Mr. MUSKAT: Yeah.

Mr. KAPLAN: ...which is a--one for a holy day called Simchat Torah, which is your--just like a...

Mr. MUSKAT: The circle with a Torah around...


Mr. MUSKAT: ...that protects from the...

Mr. KAPLAN: A very trancey kind of ritual and...

LYDEN: Yeah.

Mr. KAPLAN: And every sentence is alphabetized here from A to Z...

Mr. MUSKAT: From A to Z.

Mr. KAPLAN: the song.

Mr. MUSKAT: Yeah.

LYDEN: I see each sentence in the song is the first letter...

Mr. KAPLAN: Yeah, for example, Adir, you know, it's A.

LYDEN: Right.

Mr. KAPLAN: Bahuvba(ph) is B. Every phrase she says is alphabetized, A, B, C, in the Hebrew alphabet, of course.

(Soundbite of "Adir Adirim")

Balkan Beat Box: (Singing in foreign language)

LYDEN: You--this new CD that's come out now in Europe, in the States and in Israel, do you find any difference in the way that audiences respond to it or the things that they say?

Mr. MUSKAT: In Japan.

Mr. KAPLAN: In Japan, yeah.

Mr. MUSKAT: Ori?

LYDEN: Missed that one.

Mr. KAPLAN: Actually, no. You know what? I feel like reaction's pretty much similar. I feel like we're--people feel like they have a bit of a part of it. Like they embrace it as if they--and it speaks to--somehow to their imaginary tradition or something.

Mr. MUSKAT: We're definitely modernizing this whole thing, you know. I think that takes this music to people that probably wouldn't be interested in the original. And I think that what's happening is--and I see it on the road all the time with our fans and people, is that they'll go back to the traditional stuff after they hear that. Suddenly, kind of--it opens the whole thing for people.

(Soundbite of music from "Balkan Beat Box" )

LYDEN: Ori Kaplan and Tamir Maskat are the founders of the Balkan Beat Box. They're out with a new CD.

Been great talking with you today. Thanks very much.

Mr. KAPLAN: Thank you.

Mr. MUSKAT: Thanks so much, Jacki.

(Soundbite of music from "Balkan Beat Box" )

LYDEN: To hear more of the Balkan Beat Box, go to our Web site at

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

(Soundbite of music from "Balkan Beat Box" )

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.