. issue X : vii .

by barathron

. artist : balkanize! .
. album : balkan eyes .
. year : 2010 .
. label : self-released .
. grade : b plus .


Balkanize! describe themselves as “Richmond, Virginia’s only ensemble of old world Turko-Balkan folk music.” This is their first recording, and it’s an excellent debut. Performing other peoples’ folk music is fraught with issues, and this band navigates them quite effectively. For starters, they’re quite facile on many of the exotic instruments that you typically hear in the region, like darbuka (the hand drum commonly used in this kind of music), saz and oud (two different styles of lutes, relatives of the guitar and mandolin). Vocals can really be a challenge in this type of ensemble, especially when you’re singing in foreign languages, but vocals turn out to be one of Balkanize!’s strengths: both Nancy Smith and Julie Bright are strong singers, and their harmonies (very much in the style of Hungarian bands like Muzikas) are truly superb. Balkan Eyes offers eight songs from eight different countries (perhaps in eight different languages?), all related but distinctly different, all performed with skill, energy and obvious pleasure, and totally accessible to a general audience.

by Bill Lupoletti