Clubbers' Decktionary: Balkan Beats
A guide to the myriad genres of clubbing, from Trouble's DJ Hobbes
Balkan Beats, proper noun: usually up-tempo (around 130 bpm), mixing gypsy/Balkan and other eastern European styles with traditionally more western dance music and electronica; most often little more than a two-bar loop of Balkan accordion, gypsy tuba or jazz trumpet with a fourfour beat rather crassly edited in, occasionally incorporating drum programming from hip hop, electro, drum & bass, jungle etc.
Origins The Balkan peninsula (including Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and some of northern Italy) is an ethnically charged area, with equally myriad folk music roots: Oriental, Middle Eastern, Islamic, Jewish (klezmer etc), urban, as well as some punk rock. As such, Balkan beats is a very broad, pan-European mix of east and west.
Key figures Bosnian ex-pat DJ/producer Robert Soko takes credit for first coining the term in Berlin, in 1993. DJing worldwide, he promotes his own nights in Berlin and London, with residencies in Paris and Budapest, to boot. Bukovinan German Romanian DJ/producer Shantel is another 90s pioneer, with a score of releases under his belt since 1994. Bavarian troupe La Brass Banda, active since 2007, and Italian DJ/producer Stefano Miele (aka Riva Starr and Madox) are also well worth a look, as is Hamburg-born, Viennese-based DJ/producer Ulf Lindemann’s Balkan Beats/Electro Swing cross-over act, Dunkelbunt.
You’ll hear Balkan Beats at Balkanarama, Chambre 69, Glasgow, Fri 20 Apr; Studio 24, Edinburgh, Sat 21 Apr and Balkan Boom, Third Door, Edinburgh, Tue 10 Apr. Special thanks to Marcus del Sol (Grandma StaFlash & The Furious Grandads, Orkestra del Sol) for his help researching this piece.