Robert Soko - BalkanBeats SoundLab


"BalkanBeats SoundLab" - Robert Soko

Robert Soko credit Michael Mann

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  • Artist:Robert Soko
  • region:Gypsy and Balkan
  • release year:2012
  • style(s):
    • Balkan
    • Beat
  • country:Germany
  • catalogue numberPIR2649
  • formats:
    • CD
    • Vinyl

Maximum Danceability: DJ Robert Soko’s Perfectly Calibrated Balkan Vibes and Hot Beats Merge on BalkanBeats Soundlab
In a gritty, hip quarter of Berlin, a new science was born. The mad genius behind it, marshalling all the curious power of Balkan brass and dancefloor beats, turned émigré blues and traditional roots into tracks of gold, finding a secret, subtle formula for uniting the unlikely.

Bosnian mixmaster Robert Soko and his BalkanBeats put Eastern Europe on the club DJ map, perfecting his style by carefully observing what actually got the dancefloor bumping. Now taking his club style to the studio, joined by Romanian Roma collaborator Florian Mikuta (one of the few Romany artists to turn DJ), Soko presents the results of years of experimentation on BalkanBeats Soundlab.

Soko’s open ear – taking in and spinning out wild versions of everything from swing to surf rock – does not mean anything goes. It’s got to bump, and it has to get people, especially the ladies in the house, on the floor and moving. Every track on Soundlab is precisely calibrated to maximize danceability and tear the roof off the sucker, the way only a hard-hitting dose of Balkan funky beats can.

Soko started off spinning tunes in a hole-in-the-wall punk bar in one of Berlin’s toughest, artiest neighborhoods. As a recent immigrant from Yugoslavia, Soko chafed as his new surroundings. He longed, like many of his fellow Yugoslavs, for the radio hits and underground tracks of his youth.

These nostalgic good times took an unexpected turn: Soko slowly integrated more traditional sounds into his mixes, inspired by the films of Emir Kustarica (Underground) and rocker-turned-roots-rethinker Goran Bregovic’s savvy use of age-old songs and sonics. Soko discovered to his delight that this mix—Balkan trad meets techno rad—got people dancing. His sets soon had Germans slam-dancing to odd-meter dance numbers, and newly arrived refugees and immigrants bonding despite Yugoslavia’s demise.

This kind of delicate balance between different sounds, approaches, rhythms, and origins took time to perfect, but Soko soon had one of the biggest parties in Berlin, and invitations from around the world to play. His compilations and sets opened up DJs to a new world, making Balkan music the raw material for club nights, not just traditional relics.

Now the “godfather of Balkan beats” has taken the next step in a thoughtful progression from hipster instigator to true mixmaster. Soundlab is Soko’s first serious, full-length studio effort. He tapped the keyboard whiz and Romanian Roma (Gypsy) DJ Florian Mikuta, whose vintage-tinged “Giampara” swings with jazzy vibes and funky guitar licks.

As international as his party schedule, Soundlab seamlessly blends the upbeat rhythms and deliciously serpentine melodies of a real Balkanalia with savvy global tracks by bands like France’s Watcha Clan (the anthemic “We Are One”) and the wry Viennese !Deladap (the sexy, cheeky “Georgian Lessons”). Disco cohabitates with Hungarian gypsy jug band stylings (Besh o Drom’s “Chango Leany”), and techno beats rest comfortably beside multi-lingual Ukrainian dancehall (Los Colorados’ madcap “I Like to Move It”).

Not content to mash up, Soko tries out his combinations live on the dancefloor, as his DJ sets become experimental research into what works and doesn’t (hence the “soundlab”). If they don’t dance, the track doesn’t make it further. But if the women in the club get up and start moving, Soko knows he’s on to something.

“The music itself is interesting and quite danceable,” Soko explains. “The party it provokes is really great, and women, they like it. Once women start loving something, guys are happy about that.”

- Tristra Newyear
(Rock Paper Scissors)


"Soko's densely layered approach proves that he knows - seemingly intuitively - what works and what doesn't"

R2 Magazin Nov/Dec 2012

"The problem with Soko’s remixes is that the club elements he brings are so cheesy and dated, diluting the raw vitality of the originals. The last thing gypsy brass bands need are naff Manu Chao-style ska, dodgy rapping and beats that wouldn’t pass muster on a ‘90s Euro-dance flop." Nov 2012

"Wer bei diesen Spielereien mit modernen und traditionellen Sounds noch still sitzen bleibt, ist selber schuld..."

Musikmarkt Oct 2012

"A very jolly listen, the talent on display in both production and arrangement is outstanding." Oct 2012

"Bemerkenswerterweise ist Soko nach eigener Aussage erst durch Goran Bregovic zur Musik seiner Heimat gekommen und heutzutage auf der ganzen Welt mit seinen Parties tätig. Die nun vorliegende Kompilation ist nun eine Sammlung von Remixen diverser Szene- Hits, die im wesentlichen aus Elementen slawischer Volksmusik bestehen, die im Hypertempo mit HipHop, Techno, E-Pop und Disco- Versatzstücken vermischt werden. Sowohl die Musik wie auch die Texte haben dabei heutzutage absoluten Multikulti- Charakter. Als Einblick in diese doch recht spezielle Szene und zur Beschallung enschlägiger Parties ist dieser Sampler jedenfalls recht gut geeignet."

Maurer Oct 2012

"Wer mit treibenden Rhythmen aus Osteuropa arbeiten kann und/oder einen Hang zu Gypsie-Musik hat, der wird eine äußerst tanzbare Mischung finden, die unglaublich viel Spaß macht und Hörer in ein in solcher Art selten gehörtes Abenteuer schmeißt. Wer sich auf die Balkan Beats einlässt, findet eine sympathische und ansteckende Ansammlung toller Songs vor, die Lust auf den etwas anderen Tanzabend macht." Oct 2012

"So it's no surprise that with his new SoundLab project Soko has now branched out, from being solely a selector to an expert remixer... a very international selection indeed of the hottest Balkan dancefloor tracks." Oct 2012

"Der junge Bosnier, der erst in Berlin über Alben von Bregovic die Musik seiner alten Heimat entdeckte, arbeitet inzwischen als Dejay mit den Sounds, schickt sie mit den Remixern durch die Kanäle und bespasst damit die Clubs in den Metropolen."

Jazzthing Nov 2012

"Balkan Beats Soundlab Robert Soko kann behaupten, er habe ein eigenständiges Musik-Genre etabliert: Balkan Beats. Seit 1993 organisiert der Bosnier in Berlin Partys mit serbischer, rumänischer oder kroatischer Gypsie-Musik, mit elektronischen Beats verstärkt.Ein Riesenerfolg."

Zitty Nov 2012

"Kann Robert auch was anderes als ständig in den Balkan zu fahren und Musik mitzubringen, die uns alle vom Hocker haut und den Schnaps-Konsum höllisch in die Kehlen treibt? Warum sollte er? Wir würden doch sonst diese lebensbejahende und immer fröhliche Musik verpassen."

Hermann Nov 2012

"An album’s worth of ass-shaking Balkanised beats from the genre’s originator."

Music-News Nov 2012

"This is one wild ride into the contemporary world of Balkan music. Nothing is left undone here. There are wild rhythms, boisterous horns, and seemingly cacophonous musical wanderings... Anyone interested in the skittish Balkan beats and loud horns will love Robert Soko’s selections and mixes. Balkan DJs rejoice and world music fans unite for an unforgettable, foot-stomping, and heart-pounding journey through Europe’s musical corridor." Oct 2012

"Neu interpretierte Folksongs serbischer, rumänischer und anderer Roma-Blaskapellen feiern eine wilde Hochzeit mit elektronischen Beats, bei der die Genres von HipHop, Electro, Surf-Rock, Techno und Disco zu einem einzigartigen Sound vermischt werden." Nov 2012

"Until folks like Soko and Shantel arrived, nobody realized that gypsy music and club beats were like chocolate and peanut butter – two great tastes that taste great together. Call it ironic or post-modern or hybridity or what you will. All I know is that you’ll have a big grin on your face while you’re shaking it on the dance floor. And that's what BalkanBeats are really about." Oct 2012

"Bosnian mix-master Robert Soko lives in the German capital, where he fills the clubs with a wonderful montage of pan-European dance music, well represented on BalkanBeats Soundlab." Oct 2012

"A mischievous post Commie electronica dj has a simple method to know ifsomething works or not. Do the ladies get up and dance in automaton fashion? That's all that matters as he mixmasters everything he can think of to get things to work. Obviously loaded with Balkan ethnicity at the core, major urban areas have become such melting pots that this set could serve as the screening process to get you that Russian bride you were looking for. At least it's something other than oontz oontz music" Oct2012

"BalkanBeats Soundlab' von Rober Soko und seinen Freunden bietet einen guten Überblick über die aktuelle Tanzmusik des Balkans mit all ihren schillernden Farben und Sounds. Die Beats sind treibend, die Bläser sind obligatorisch. Nicht alleine Dance-Beats, sondern auch Polka-Rhythmen gehen in die Beine. Orientalische Anleihen, Roma Sounds und Klezmer-Momente vereinen sich mit Pop, Techno, HipHop, Ska und Elektro. Das ist bunt, schrill und verlangt danach, mit dem Fuß mitgewippt zu werden. Macht Spaß!" Oct 2012-

"U.a. beim Ziveli Orkestar, dem Shukar Collective, dem Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orkestra oder Deladap mischen sich neu interpretierte Folksongs mit HipHop, Elektronik und Disco zu einem neuen Stil. In den meisten Fällen ist dies äußerst kreativ, fesselnd und kommt nicht nur beim tanzverrückten Party-Publikum bestens an."

Zwiebel Nov 2012

"This is one wild ride into the contemporary world of Balkan music. Nothing is left undone here. There are wild rhythms, boisterous horns, and seemingly cacophonous musical wanderings." Oct 2012

"Now.. this guy is a legend!! and in case you have been under a rock and you have never had the chance of putting your hands and ears in those amazing balkan beats.. Well, no need to worry.. The guy is killing it with a blisteringly hot new CD compilation called ‘BalkanBeats SoundLab’" Oct 2012

"With his new Sound Lab project DJ Selector Robert Soko has entered the BalkanBeats stage as an expert remixer of the hottest Balkan dancefloor tracks he spots on the global scene during his BalkanBeats parties from Frankfurt and Vienna to Paris, New York, London and Melbourne." Oct 2012

"Es waren nicht zuletzt Soko’s – zuerst im Berliner Lido, später in weiteren europäischen
Metropolen – veranstalteten Balkan Beat Parties, die den Trend vor zwei Jahrzehnten anschoben. Längst ist Balkan Pop etabliert auf Tanzflächen. Und es wird weiter gemixt: Bläser-Folklore trifft elektronische Beats. Diese 17 infizierenden Tracks legen eindrucksvoll Zeugnis davon ab. Watcha Clan, das Boban I Marko Markovic Orkestar, Berlinski Beat, Romzil und das Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orkestar werden konsequent beschleunigt, verdichtet, geschliffen und mit Pauken & Trompeten auf Tanzbarkeit getrimmt. Rein ins Getümmel!

Treff Jan 2013

"Soko's densely layered approach proves that he knows - seemingly intuitively - what works and what doesn't."

R2 Magazin Nov/Dec 2012


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