Interview With Ori Kaplan of Balkan Beat Box (Hangout Music Festival ’14) Pt. 1

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Yo Writer: Danielle Cohen

I’m at Hangout Festival, it’s a sunny-ass day on the beach in Alabama, and I’m trying to coordinate an interview with Balkan Beat Box—but my cellphone won’t make outgoing calls because the towers are jammed… The last text I received from the band’s manager Owen was: “Come meet us at our tour bus 30 minutes after the band gets off stage.”

Roger that.

[…30 Minutes after they get off stage. Entrance to the tour bus area.]

“You can’t come in here, only the Artists can go to their tour bus,” says a friendly, sweaty, southern gentleman who is blocking my way.


…60 minutes and 50 Failed Text Messages later:

Owen somehow finds me. He’s holding a beer and he looks like he just woke up from a nap. He starts walking me over to Ori, the sax player of Blakan Beat Box, and two seconds before we walk up to Ori, Owen says, “By the way, Ori just woke up from a nap—so take it easy on him.”

I think to myself: Ya’ll were napping?! Didn’t we plan to meet 30 minutes after you got off stage? This guy!

Seems like I forgot that we’re in the slow-moving South. The land of spontaneous naps.

“Ori this is Danielle. Danielle this is Ori. She’s going to interview you,” Owen says before he disappears, leaving me alone with Ori, who matches the ‘just got up from a nap’ description. Sunshine is bouncing off his perfectly bald head. His eyes are squinted. I feel slightly awkward.

We’re in the VIP area, which feels like an oasis… it’s got real bathrooms, good seats, free water, a pool, lounge chairs, free drinks, fans–oh, and shade. Yes, shade. It’s quite a commodity at any summer music festival.

Right then a bunch of rich, salt-and-pepper-haired dudes dressed in short khaki slacks, button-down island t-shirts and their Maui Jim glasses pass us by. They’re all holding their cocktails: some kind of clear liquor with possibly some kind of clear mixer, topped with a lime and a red straw sticking out—I know you know the type. They look more like the investors of the festival than actual fans of the music.

So after Ori and I thoroughly size up everyone in the VIP, we keep looking for a spot to sit but it’s way too loud for my crappy recorder to pick up our conversation. I think: Fuck. I don’t think this interview is going to go down.

“I don’t understand. Why can’t we just do this in peace and quiet at the tour bus?” Ori asks me, annoyed.

The security guard won’t let me in,” I tell him.

“Oh, yeah. Fuck him.”

“Yeah, well it’s not his fault. He’s just working for a measly—…”

Ori cuts me off, “Look! We can sneak in!”

I look up and I see an opening in the fence between the media area and the tour buses.

“Yalla!” Ori whisper-yells at me. “Let’s go. Run!” And he dips. Out through the opening in the fence, across the tour buses and into the Balkan Beat Box home-on-the-road. I follow and we’re finally in the tour bus in all its gloriously cool, refreshing shade. Like I said, a commodity in Alabama in May.

“Oh my god. So nice in the air conditioner, no?” Ori says.

We talked for more than an hour. We cracked up and laughed and talked about some really private stuff… Some of which I had every intention of publishing.

…Until I got this text from Ori the day after we interviewed: “oh btw… all the private stuff is between us… not for print… X_X ok?”

Which pretty much left me with about 10% of the interview we did. Thanks, Ori! >:o

Ori is the saxophonist of the trio and has also played with Gogol Bordello. The band fuses hip-hop and electronic music with middle-eastern horns and percussions and it makes for a super fun live show.

Check out Balkan Beat Box music right here (Their song ‘Hermetico’ is also sampled on Jason Derulo’s single “Talk Dirty to Me”).

Part 2 (the actual interview coming soon!)

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