With little fanfare and almost no buzz, Balkan Beat Box released a short documentary on in 2010 entitled “Look Them Act.” The film is named for a track from their 2010 album Blue Eyed Black Boy. While the video’s YouTube caption notes the video, I was completely unfamiliar with it. As a fan, I do my best to follow the band on social media and I obsessively watch my local concert listings for their next local appearance (I’ve seen them 5 times and they’ve never once let me down. This is all to say I think I would have known about a DVD or documentary, online or on the merch table, but it was by chance that I even came across this film on YouTube. This is a brief, yet intimate behind the scenes look at what makes BBB tick. It manages to cram to so much into 28 minutes that it almost feels like a lengthy trailer for a feature-length documentary that has yet to be released.
“Look Them Act” opens with a dive into the primary musician’s individual backgrounds, how they entered into music in the first place. Percussionist Tamir Muskat grew up in a highly musical family. Vocalist Tomer Yosef admits he grew up backing on trash cans. Wouldn’t you know it, saxophonist Ori Kaplan is the grandson of a cantor. He tells this somewhat cliche story of growing up “a klezmer freak” only to later reject it for more modern sounds in the 80s.
If you ever doubted the source of some of BBB’s distinctive Jewish melodies, look no further. Hassidishe melodies and klezmer rhythms are in his blood. Tomer later candidly shares how much he once hated the sound of a saxophone. It’s these kinds of conversations caught on film that will really to fans.
Unlike documentaries that simply follow bands on the road or rely on live footage, Look Them Act gives us a look inside the heads and hearts of Balkan Beat Box. They have this genuine love for what they do; never once does the discussion of business or labels enter into the narrative. Somewhat surprisingly, they discuss that politics and culture are not something they actively aim to convey in their music, but it was something I always thought to be deeply ingrained in their sound and vision (see “War Again” or “Digital Monkey”). Listening to Tamir discuss his visions, watching him try to get his rhythm ideas out of his head is like watching a mad genius at work. I fell in love with Tomer as he shares his desire to continue performing music but be a part of his son’s life, home and not on the road as a touring artist. These three are sabras if I ever met one.
Not one for the mushy personal stuff? You’ll still get your share of studio footage and stories behind things like the bands names and sound. This is a crucial watch for any Balkan Beat Box fan, yet short and digestible enough for anyone just getting to know their sound. BBB last released “Give” in 2012 on Nat Geo Music/Crammed Discs and as of December of 2014, they’re back in the studio working on new music. Like Balkan Beat Box on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and Subscribe to their YouTube Channel.