There’s no such thing as bad publicity, runs the old adage. This certainly holds true for BalkanBeats – a global dance floor phenomenon which grew out of an unlikely marriage of war, refugees, Balkan lifestyle & Berliner nightlife.
BalkanBeats DJ Robert Šoko, Piranha Arts in Berlin, and music journalist Robert Rigney have put together the highly compelling Balkan Beats Book – An Oral History looking back on 30 years of Balkan music madness in Berlin, New York, Istanbul, Tokyo – and beyond. Figures like Goran Bregović, Shantel and Eugene Hütz weigh in on the last real World Music scene before Covid put a damper on things – a musical style and dance-floor movement which gave techno a run for its money and at its peak aspired to be “a new rock ‘n’ roll”, “the new punk”. It was also the first global pop culture phenomenon that began in the East and made its way West.
It is a rare portrait of one DJ’s battle with prejudices, traumas and addictions, written in a rock‘n’roll style; casual, anecdotal, witty. It is at the same time a beguiling cacophony of more than eighty voices weighing in on a style of music that, in the words of Balkan Beat Box saxophonist Ori Kaplan, strove for a “middle ground between the mechanical and the soul, between electronic and hard-core authentic folk music,” for people who were “tired of corporate must-sell approach” and “hungry for really sweaty, personal, alcohol-driven, familiar, ceremony-like music.”
Balkan Beats Book has adopted the “oral history” format, a literary genre that has gained in popularity in recent years. The book consists of edited passages from a collection of interviews that are tightly woven together into an accurate chronology. The model is the 1996 classic Please Kill Me – The Oral History of Punk.
Balkan Beats Book has been described by Carol Silverman, professor of anthropology at University of Oregon and author of Romani Routes (Oxford University Press) as “extremely interesting” and by Todd Swift of Black Spring Press London as “fascinating”. “It’s great to have this kind of thing recorded, and even better as an oral history,” comments Songlines writer Kim Burton.
In 2020 BalkanBeats and Robert Šoko were the subject of a Dutch art documentary film, Here We Move – Here We Groove.
The book is scheduled to be published by Dagyeli Verlag in February 2024.