Balkan music is dance music. Electronic music is dance music. Mix the two and you’ve got a double-dose of upbeat and body-moving rhythms, although their mating isn’t something that’s part of everyday musical fare. Even digging into the most obscure, left of the dial sources won’t reveal that hybrid on the regular. Yet there are some indie and outsider musicians experimenting with those sounds, curious and crafty creators digging around their own musical laboratories eager to meld the two to make something fresh.
Enter Will Magid, the man behind the band Balkan Bump, fusing electronic beats with traditional music of the Balkans and Southeast Europe, creating a horn-heavy and break-beat hybrid.
Balkan Bump will perform Wednesday at Animas City Theatre.
Magid’s interest in Balkan music stems from Eastern European ancestry and studying music in his ancestral homeland.
“I got the opportunity to study music in Northern Macedonia with the Kocani Orkestar, and just really got the itch,” he said. “I was obsessed with the culmination of virtuosity, you know some of the most delicate and difficult thing to play on instruments, but also danceability and emotion. It’s rare to hear music that’s so complicated yet so emotional and danceable at the same time.”
Post musical studies, he ended up back in the States, playing in bands specializing in Balkan music, while also pursuing electronic music production. When he mixed the two, people in high places paid attention.
if you go
WHAT: Balkan Bump, Ethno and MAH ZE TAR.
WHEN: 7 p.m. (doors) Wednesday.
WHERE: Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive.
TICKETS: $25. Available online at https://bit.ly/3D937Py.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.animascitytheatre.com.
“I thought it would be really fun if I just put some of this Balkan brass rhythm and melodies to a trap beat, or a real hard hip-hop beat. And I did that as kind of an experiment, and I threw it up on YouTube and got a bunch of traction,” Magid said. “It ended up leading to Gramatik, one of my idols in music production, signing the project to his label. So, it was an unexpectedly, pun intended, big bump in the project. It was especially sweet because Gramatik is from the Balkans, so that music is really close to him, so it was really cool having his support on this project from the beginning.”
For this tour, Balkan Bump is a trio, with Magid, who plays trumpet while also handling the electronic music duties, joined by Morgan “Mayvn” Nilsen on clarinet and Maz “Mah Ze Tar” Karandish on the oud, sitar and nay, which is a Persian flute. Its an energetic set meant to challenge listeners while also keeping them on their toes.
“In a given set, I really like to hit a lot of different kind of energy and emotions. There will be jubilant dancing and meditative moments, too,” Magid said. “We might do a really silly song at some point, too, like a cover everyone knows but we’ll flip it in a really different way, and we’ll go to an aggressive dubstep song for a moment just to test the waters there. It’s really dynamic.”
With all three members of this version of Balkan Bump being ethnomusicologists, there’s an educational aspect to the show as well. This is nontraditional music played at times on instruments not regularly seen on stages in American venues, and the band hopes audiences may pull away having learned something.
“All three of us have backgrounds in ethnomusicology, we all studied that as our majors in college. So part of our mission, every time we step on stage is to show some things maybe people haven’t seen before, and have people walk away with a bit of musical history even if they aren’t totally aware of it,” Magid said. “They might see these instruments, and our hope is for people to follow up and say, ‘what was that instrument, where can I learn more about this?’”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.