Like rats jumping a sinking ship, World Beat DJs have ditched the Balkans in favor of sounds further afield — mainly from Turkey or the Middle East. Having said this, there still seem to be places where the Balkans reverberate musically: Tokyo, Mexico City — and the San Francisco Bay Area — home to Will Magid and Balkan Bump, an Oakland-based sound system that injects fresh impulses into a tired genre.
A trumpet player who delved into West African music after studying ethnomusicology at UCLA, Magid tuned his ear to the sound of the Balkans, making it to Serbia and Macedonia to study at the feet of Roma greats like Džambo Aguševi and Kočani Orkestar.
Out of his Balkan forays, Magid has adopted a style, a logo and an album title with a Turkish lilt — “Osmanity”, a portmanteau blending “Osmanlı” (the Turkish word for Ottoman) with “insanity”, thus gaining some extra orient mileage for this predominantly Balkan sound.
The freshest track by a long shot is Džambo Funk, which begins on a bucolic note with jangling chimes suggestive of sheep bells, before plucked saz lines and kanun infused with electrica sketch out an Oriental air, ceding way to punchy trumpet playing and cresting with some plaintive, melismatic vocals packed with reverb like an echoing call to prayer.
Ten years ago, this would have been sure-fire hit on Balkan dance-floors. Now it sounds a little bit old hat on first listen. However, its “Osmanity” is what keeps it fresh.