BALKAN BEAT BOX | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I usually blanch when I hear about a "world music" act that tries to put in at every port of call, but this New York group, led by a pair of polyethnic Israelis, does it right. Drummer Tamir Muskat has said that the members of Balkan Beat Box believe in "listening to localities," and they do throw practically everything into their global olio, but their second album, Nu Med (J Dub), is no touchy-feely Putumayo comp. Rom horn melodies and rhythms reel drunkenly around Moroccan chants and Bulgarian choral singing, while floor-shaking dancehall and hip-hop beats hold everything together. The groove of "Habibi Min Zaman" is driven by twangy electric guitar licks that echo an oud, and guest rapper Dunia drops Arabic rhymes over a thump that's as much Middle East as it is Bronx, with dubby effects swirling through the breaks. As on their debut, the core members are joined by a small army of guests--about 15 of them--but live they get it done as a five-piece, aided by some carefully deployed samples and the outsize charisma of MC Tomer Yosef, who drove the SummerDance crowd nuts last year. The Black Bear Combo opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $17, $15 in advance.

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