INTERVIEW WITH BROTHERS OF THE BALADI’S MICHAEL BEACH!
“Brothers of the Baladi are the ‘real deal’ –– a fresh take on an ancient idea“ –The Beat Magazine
Unique is the perfect word to describe the grammy nominated band Brothers of the Baladi. Their style is one of a kind, “the quartet combines traditional acoustic Middle Eastern instruments and songs with western instrumentation, exotic rhythms with familiar grooves and vocals in seven languages (Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, French, Spanish, Armenian and English) to create a unique and highly rhythmic dance music.”
Brothers of the Baladi is headed up by the multi – talented and very cool Michael Beach, who in addition to providing the lead vocals, plays doumbek / Arabic tabla, mizmar, mijwiz, def, riq and davul. The band also includes talented musicians J. Michael Kearsey, Clark Salisbury, and Charles Pike. Michael credits composer/ conductor, David Amram and the Middle Eastern band Sirocco as some of his/the bands influences. Brothers of the Baladi has also had the chance to collaborate with artists like Moroccan born Tariq Banzi and drummer Michael Shrieve.
Learn more about the history of Brothers of the Baladi here.
LISTEN!!!!! BELLY BEATZ PLAYLIST: BROTHERS OF THE BALADI
Brothers of the Baladi has been going strong for 30 years and dropped 11 albums!
I had such a hard time putting together this playlist because all the songs are so good!!!!
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You can also buy their music here 🙂
And don’t miss Michael’s solo album – Hands of A Thousand Dances
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~INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BEACH~
TBB: What specifically drew you to Middle Eastern music over other genres of world music?
MB: This is the big question. I’m not sure if I have an answer for it. I have no Middle Eastern or any ethnic music or cultural background. I grew up listening to my parent’s music (Sinatra, Jazz, Swing, etc.) and then I was swept up with Rock and Soul of the 60s and 70s. In 1975 I was living in Yuma AZ and I met a Belly Dancer named Zamara. She had a weekly gig. I had never heard Middle Eastern music but as soon as I heard her music it grabbed me to my core. Within months we met some other crazy like-minded guys and the original Brothers of the Baladi were born. We weren’t great but ya gotta start somewhere.
So how could someone like me end up singing in 7 languages, playing instruments that some people can’t even pronounce and lead a successful band that plays Middle Eastern music for so many years? Why are we drawn to a genre of any art we’ve never even heard before?
TBB: Into what category does your music fall?
MB: The band was originally formed as a Middle Eastern band to play for Belly Dancers but throughout the years many band members have come and gone. Consequently the Brothers have evolved and changed. I’ve enjoyed these changes though because different members bring their influences and contributions to the overall sound.
The Brothers do many things. We often include a dancer or dancers depending on the venue or who hires us. Usually we market ourselves as Middle Eastern / World Music but we do four things. (1) Sometimes (Performing Arts programs & colleges) we are hired for sit-down educational concerts where we focus on traditional Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, Persian and North African music performed on acoustic instruments. We also discuss and demonstrate the instruments, the songs and the translations. (2) Some of the time we are hired to teach Middle Eastern Music / Drum / Rhythm Workshops. (3) Once in awhile we are hired by dancers to perform with them in their dance shows. (4) Many times we play in clubs or music festivals as a Middle Eastern / World Music dance band. Our live electric show is VERY hot! If we have dancers the audience gets to see a great dance show AND we combine the traditional music, some of our originals, some cover songs, add bass and drums to our ‘ Oud, saz, mizmar, midjwiz, tabla, davul and riq sound ‘ and amp it all up so that the audience cannot sit still. This is my favorite thing to do. I love turning audiences on to this music that I / we love. I’m happiest when audiences are dancing.
TBB: What is your fondest memory with your band?
MB: OMG I’m the luckiest man alive. I have too many great memories. My old partner (Joseph Pusey) and I were constantly on the road touring from 1978-91. We were two of the three people who started the Gypsy Stage at The Oregon Country Fair — but I’m still making many memories now.
I sing in Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Armenian, Spanish, French and English. One of my biggest thrills is not only singing well but also singing so that any native speakers in the audience understands and actually compliments me. That’s when I know I’m doing something right. My fondest memories then and now are touring, playing a show in different cities every night, being on the road with guys I love and trust, turning people on to this music, playing for wonderful dancers and meeting great people. I still live to travel and tour.
TBB: What has been your biggest challenge as a group? How did you overcome it?
MB: Two challenges:
(1) Keeping my band working, marketing and selling 12 CDs in the modern digital world and still trying to stay alive in the music business. It’s almost 40 years for my band. (Of course I was two years old when I started the band!?!. That’s a long time for any band.
(2) 9/11 just about ended our career. No one wanted to see or hear Middle Eastern music. I was seriously ready to give up after 9/11. Somehow I / we decided “ Who better than an American band can bring this music to other Americans so that we can help heal, bridge the gap and find a bit of commonality. “ I still believe this very strongly but it’s an uphill struggle. Any ‘normal’ band has its challenges in the music business but t’s much more difficult for us. We are not a ‘normal’ Americana, Rock or Pop band. The Middle Easterners who see us always love what we do but the majority of our audiences are Americans. The Middle East has gotten even crazier. Try to market a Middle Eastern band to a festival up against a ‘normal’ Rock, Americana, Swing, etc.…. band and who are they going to hire? We’re working less but we’re still working though. Once people see us perform live, they usually ‘ get it ‘ and love us.
TBB: Which album are you most proud of?
MB: We have 11 albums available in retail and digital. They all reflect different influences throughout my / our career. I love Further Journeys, Just Do What’s Right and A Time of Peace but to be honest my favorite album is usually the one we are currently working on. We’re working on # 12 right now. It’s called Gravity of Love and it’s quite different than the others. It will be out in 2015.
TBB: What is your favorite song of yours? Of someone else’s?
MB: I sort of live in two worlds. I love Mohammed Abdul Wahab, Feiruz, Ibrahim Tatlises, Farid al Atrache, Halim Hafez and lots of Persian, North African, Turkish and Armenian music BUT I also love Soul, Rock, Reggae, Salsa, Blues and some modern Pop.
Favorites of my songs: Just Do What’s Right, Nothing to Fear, Gole Khazan Nadeeday and Olmaz Olmaz.
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TBB: If you could meet any musician past or present who would it be and why?
MB: Jimi Hendrix. He had a huge influence on me. In fact I’ve always wanted to cover one of his songs but I love so many of them, I never knew which one to do. So now his ” One Rainy Wish ” is on our new upcoming album. Whenever we play it live I always introduce the song by saying, ” We’d
like to think that if Jimi were still alive he would have experimented and explored Middle Eastern music a bit. Here’s our take on one of his songs. ”
TBB: If you could give young musicians advice what would it be? What is the best musical advice you’ve ever gotten?
MB: Do what you love even if it’s totally different, crazy and unique. It’s definitely not about the money.
TBB: What do you most enjoy about working with a dancer?
MB: Playing for a dancer is just like playing music with someone in a band. We’re there to do a show and blow the audience away but we’re also there to go on a wonderful magical journey. It’s give and take. We give you some, you give us some and we take off to wherever we go. Not everyone can do this but when we do it’s beyond magic. When it happens I love that connection; and the audience does too.
THANK YOU MICHAEL!!!
DO YOU LIVE IN PORTLAND?
If you do check out Michael’s other band Arabesque! They are a 6 piece traditional Middle Eastern band. They’re celebrating 20 years of music this year – which is pretty awesome.
Have a good night guys!