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New Review: Balkan Beat Box / Nu*Med

Balkan Beat Box / Nu Med
JDUB Records, Jdub106, 2007
Available from JDub Records
I credit my growing affection for hip hop to the very different efforts of DJ SoCalled and the Balkan Beat Box. In this latest offering, BBB confirm my expectation of pleasure, but now I am a bit more used to the band, the genre. Still, the wonderful melding of rap with balkan melody in rhythm in "Hermetica," say, is proof positive that this a band with lots to say, and lots of new ways in which to say it. Then, in the middle of piece, when the rap switches languages to Hebrew and I realize that I understand exactly what is being vocalized—a 21st century version of the West Side Story's "In America", but conceptually transformed as well. Rap later takes a trip south of the US border with "Mexico City," but again with rhythms from elsewhere.

The whole album is like that—fun rhythms, samples, melodies coupled with interesting words and the whole making a delightful dance stew that answers that need for dance that pulled me into klezmer fandom years ago. This, of course, has nothing to do with klezmer beyond the usual most tenuous link of this review appearing on a website with "klezmer" in its name. Still, my favorites are probably the Bulgarian harmonies of pieces like "Joro Boro."

"Pachima" explores some lovely call-response Middle Eastern twang. "Habibi min zman" takes that Turkish-style twang, but, instead of taking us into traditional territory (as, say, on the most recent Shtreiml outing), the vocals switch to Arabic and the delivery is once again, straight-forward hip hop (even the ululation is filtered through modern electronic gadgetry), and before I know it I'm in straight ahead balkan sax territory—lookout Yuri Yunakov!—and then back again in the Middle East.

Like all the music that makes me happiest, Nu*Med is a melange, a potpourri, in this case, a Jewish-American-Israeli-Balkan-World fusion that never loses sight of fun and infectious rhythm.