What happens when you merge the diverse sounds of New York, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean? Chances are you might get a band like Balkan Beat Box. By now, fans of the New York-based trio have come to expect one thing: a musical excursion through sounds both old and new, familiar and foreign, with a crowd as diverse as their sound. With a full backing band, the trio of singer Tamir Muskat, drummer Tomer Yosef, and saxophonist Ori Kaplan came to 9:30 Club in support of their latest album Shout It Out to once again bend genres to their will in the name of having a great time with friends and strangers.
If you ever need a hype-man, you could do a lot worse than Tamir Muskat. The Tom Waits-like gravel in his voice combined with his pointed rapping and singing in both Hebrew and English had the crowd drawn in. When he wasn’t jumping on top of speakers at the lip of the stage, he was behind a set of percussion instruments, letting the lineup of saxophone, guitar, and bass take front-and-center while he pounded away at his kit. Behind the full drum kit was Tomer Yosef, who put on a viscerally intense display of showmanship with his technical prowess and an occasional smug look to the crowd, as if he was aware of his uncanny ability to drive the Middle Eastern and Balkan beats home with his drum solos and fast-paced fills. And Kaplan’s alto sax, played in a style typically heard in the Middle East, meshed perfectly with Muskat’s gruff delivery and Yosef’s snare-driven beats on songs like Middle-East-meets-reggaeton “Hermetico,” which had the crowd jumping as Muskat and Yosef pounded away at the percussion. After all of the limbo lines, one-on-one dance circles, and general jumping was over in the pit, it was clear that the call-and-responses, drum-offs, and stunning displays of around-the-world music that Balkan Beat Box does so well was an unforgettable display of unity through music.
Opening for Balkan Beat Box was Christine Moritz, a Washington DC-based DJ. She can be found DJing at venues like Eighteenth Street Lounge, 9:30 Club, and U Street Music Hall.