Like its self-titled 2005 debut, Jewish Gypsy band Balkan Beat Box’s follow-up, Nu Med (i.e.,
New Mediterranean), is about dance-floor revelry, but this is not mindless booty-shaking. If we modernists have lost the ability to build self-sustaining myths, “roots” musicians like BBB’s collective of downtown scenesters dream of leading us down deep, shadowy paths back to a simpler past, real or imagined, when our global village was unincorporated, and music and stories (rather than multinationals) bound us all together. Gypsies and Jews—Original Wanderers both—put down many roots, so Med‘s fusion of Eastern European Yiddishkeit and Middle Eastern minor-key exotica justifiably includes electronica, hip-hop, and Jamaican riddimatic sensibilities.
The set announces right off the extreme global shape-shifting going on here, with MC Tomer Yosef’s more-than-credible Jafaikan reggae deejay turn on “Hermetico,” a whirlwind of rousing klezmer horns over a sinewy, Sephardic-tinged dancehall beat straight outta North Africa’s ancient Jewish enclaves and Kingston, JA. “Delancey,” “Joro Boro,” “Mexico City,” and “Gypsy Queens” underscore Med‘s vision of urban One Love, but it’s most gorgeously presented in “Habibi Min Zaman” (featuring Dunia’s alluring Arabic wail over a driving, percussive track) and most bangingly in “Pachima,” thanks to Gilber Gilmore’s barrage of ultra-tough sung/rapped Hebrew.