Beirut bringing Balkan Folk back!Zach Condon, along with Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, created the band (Beirut) in New Mexico, USA. Zach was the mastermind, having written and recorded Gulag Orkestar in his bedroom. Zach, born in Santa Fe in 1986, was only a teenager during the creation and recording of Gulag Orkestar, which was released in 2005. He had just arrived back home from a trip to Europe, where he was introduced to Balkan folk music, most notably Goran Bregovic and Boban Markovic. With Jeremy Barnes setting the tempo and adding flare to the album on the drums, and with Heather Trost adding a haunting edge to songs such as The Bunker and Bratislava on both the viola and violin. Zach, playing the trumpet, flugelhorn, ukulele and being the bands vocalist, combines the Balkan Folk element with a modern indie rock style. This unique combination created such a potent sound that Gulag Orkestar got the band signed with Ba Da Bing! records. With song titles such as ‘Mount Wroclai’ and ‘Prezlauerberg’, one can see the Balkan element found within the music, and the crashing symbol which keeps the beat in ‘The Bunker’ is testimony to Balkan Folk music.
One can not, however, ignore or underappreciate the indie element which can be found in the album. Both the use of vibrant and light ukulele, along with sweeping trumpet choruses, epitomize the musical uniqueness of Beirut’s sound and their mixing of traditional with new. The release and following success, of Gulag Orkestar invoked a flood of attention towards this new band. The album was played in Russia, Poland and throughout North America and Europe, as the band explored themselves and dealt with almost reverential fandom, international acclaim and a mass amount of photo-shoots, features and interviews during the tour. The album takes listeners onto a journey, dipping between an American indie rock culture/ sound, to melodies one might hear through the streets of a little Balkan village. The potency of Gulag Orkestar is, however, its intricacy as it makes extensive use of slightly less poplar instruments and ones which one would not see in the default American ‘pop music’ culture such as the flugelhorn.
The album got a high acclaim and scored well in reviews, with online media powerhouse Pitchfork Media giving the album 7.7/10 and The Guardian Daily newspaper giving the band a four star rating. One can get more information on Beirut and their debut album Gulag Orkestar at Beirut’s official band website http://beirutband.com/ . Watch the following if you want to get a perfect understanding of the band, the music they play, and the unique aspect of Beirut’s music.