“Balkanization” has become a word applied to anything fractured and chaotic, but the region that inspired the term has so much more going on than bad press.
The Balkans, which includes Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Turkey and a bunch of others, depending on where you draw the line, has long been a place of rich national cultures. With a complex history shaped by the Ottoman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Soviet Union, Southeast Europe remains a crossroads of the east and west. Based on our research, things are only getting more interesting.
Gypsy bands like Romanian legends Taraf de Haïdouks might be the go-to Balkan musical reference for a lot of the world, and those guys are great and all, but, trust us, it gets even better. Check out this list of Balkan bodaciousness and heed our prediction: In the future the word “Balkanization” is going to be slang for “to become awesomer” and it will most often be applied to dance parties.
1. D E N A
D E N A’s single “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” basically inspired this list. It’s stuck in our heads and after this awesome interview, the Kitsuné-signed Bulgarian beauty (who lives in Berlin) is stuck in our hearts.
2. Miss Platnum
Dieting is a dirty word and Romanian diva Miss Platnum is my sexy new inspiration for living. Specifically, she is inspiring me to love those curves by trying to dance and eat a chili dog at the same time. Give us the food, I say!
3. Duboka Ilegala
Belgrade weirdos Shonegrad O’Connor, Andy Pavlov, Sobot Sushi and Biftek Zdravković pioneered a uniquely Serbian nanogenre they call trash-hop during their now defunct radio show. Whatever it is, it spawned followers, they’re still doing it and it’s awesome.
Balkan rhythms have a seat in the global bass VIP section thanks in large part to the creative efforts of this Serbian duo (Milan Djurić and Uroš Petković), creators of a style they call folk-step. Their music blends traditional Balkan sounds with a whole lot of bass (among other odds and ends) and makes you wonder why no one thought of this before.
5. The Away Days
Istanbul’s music scene is as varied and exciting as the wares in its outdoor markets. We’ve told you about psych rockers Hayvanlar Alemi and experimental electro duo Kim Ki O. Now here’s the haunting indie rock of The Away Days. We’re packing our bags as you read this.
6. Zdob şi Zdub
These Moldovan gypsy punks may not have the most cutting edge sound, but they’ve been tearing shit up for awhile now and this new video made us smile.
In the Soviet era music was required by law to promote clean living and moral uprightness. By the time the USSR dissolved, the people of Bulgaria, Serbia and Yugoslavia had had enough of that. Enter Chalga, possibly the most seductively cheesy pop music ever made. A mix of Romani, Arabic and even filmi influences, its infectious rhythms and lack of what the straight world calls “good taste” are viewed with extreme disdain among the bougie-er elements in society. All the more reason to love it.
It’s the sound of a collective psyche un-repressing all at once. More than a lifestyle, it’s become an unstoppable force. The stars are handsome, hard bodied men with frosted hair or pouty glamazons with piercing eyes and platform heels, or, in the case of Bulgaria’s Azis, all of the above.
8. Acid Baby Jesus and friends
This is just me, but I want to go to Greece really bad. I’m not going clubbing or hanging out at the beach though. All I want to do is go to punk shows in Athens. If I can see Acid Baby Jesus, Bazooka and Gay Anniversary someplace dirty, cheap and illegal all in one night I will die happy.
9. Hornsman Coyote
Serbian reggae singer and trombonist is not a phrase that rolls off the tongue, but the music of Nemanja Kojić (AKA Hornsman Coyote) does soothe the soul. His reggae/hardcore band Eyesburn gets a little more intense.
10. Rita Ora
Rita Ora might be known as a UK singer but she was born in Kosovo and you can tell this pop it-girl has a lot of love for the homeland. She performed in Albania for the country’s 100th independence celebration and her “Shine Ya Light” video was shot in Pristina, Kosovo. Further proof that the peninsula is rising. We’re just saying.