The inspiration for Brothers of the Baladi was sparked when Niagara Falls, NY-born drummer/percussionist Michael Beach became involved with a belly dancer named Zamara. The original band (Peter, Colby, Josh Mertz and Beach) was formed in Yuma, AZ in 1975 to accompany her. In 1978 Beach relocated to Oregon. where he teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Joseph Pusey. Their “Original and Traditional Celtic Renaissance and Jazzy Blues with a unique blend of Latin, Rock and the Middle East” sound was influenced by The Kaleidoscope, The Incredible String Band, Spirit and Sirocco. They toured the US and Canada extensively and developed a huge following – especially with the many Middle Eastern Belly Dancers around the world. They released three albums (Dance with Gladness; 1982, Food of Love; 1983 and Beyond the Tenth; 1989). . Along with Leo Deflambeaux they also created and built the original infamous Gypsy Stage at the Oregon Country Fair in 1980. In 1989 they added bass guitarist J. Michael Kearsey to their Global Rock sound. Joseph left in 1991 but Further Journeys 1993 Michael Shrieve (Santana) produced their 1995 CDthe band moved on The band has undergone numerous other personnel changes in the 24 years that they’ve been together. The current lineup also features bouzouki and keyboard player and vocalist Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., drums, daval, and riq player Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., and guitar and jimbush player and vocalist Error! Hyperlink reference not valid… Although they initially focused on traditional Middle Eastern music, Brothers of the Baladi have expanded their repertoire to include reggae and Latin music. Their 1994 album, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., produced by ex-Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. drummer Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., included a Middle Eastern-ized version of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. tune “Paint It Black,” while their 1998 album, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. featured a unique rendition of Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.’ song, “Over Under Sideways Down.” The group continues to make their music palatable to American audiences by alternating verses sung in Turkish or Arabic with verses sung in English. In addition to his work with Brothers of the Baladi, Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. conducts workshops in Middle Eastern drumming. He recently released a video and companion cassette, Basic Middle Eastern Drums and Rhythms. Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., who also performs with Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., has recorded two solo albums — Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. in 1981 and Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. in 1989. Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. was reissued on CD in 1999. The Portland, Oregon USA based Brothers of the Baladi have adapted traditional Middle Eastern music to create a new hybrid of World Music. The band combines traditional Middle Eastern songs and instruments with Western instrumentation and vocals in seven languages (Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Armenian, Spanish, French and English) to create a unique, highly rhythmic dance music. According to the L.A. Times, the Brothers of the Baladi’s sound “knows no borders.” The Portland Oregonian praised the band for “the sound that makes regular guys loosen their ties and dance on the table,” while pop vocalist Maria Muldaur described the group’s performances as “a delightful oasis of sensual rhythms and superb musicianship that always makes me dance.”
The Brothers of the Baladi started in Yuma, Arizona in 1975. The inspiration was sparked when Niagara Falls, NY born drummer/percussionist/vocalist Michael Beach became involved with a belly dancer named Zamara. The original band (Peter, Colby, Josh Mertz and Beach) was actually formed to accompany her in her dance shows.
In 1978 Beach relocated to Southern Oregon where he teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Joseph Pusey. They kept the Brothers name and developed a style they called “Original and Traditional Celtic Renaissance and Jazzy Blues with a unique blend of Folk, Latin, Rock and the Middle East”. Their sound was influenced by The Kaleidoscope, The Incredible String Band, Spirit and Sirocco. This duo toured the US and Canada extensively and developed a huge following – especially with the many Middle Eastern Belly Dancers around the world. They released three well loved Belly Dance albums: Dance with Gladness (1982), Food of Love (1983) and Beyond the Tenth (1989). Along with dancer Leo Deflambeaux, Michael and Joseph also created and built the original infamous Gypsy Stage at the Oregon Country Fair in 1980. In 1989 they added bass guitarist J. Michael Kearsey (UPEPO, Razorbacks) to their Global Rock sound. Joseph left in 1991 but with the help of Ishmael (kanoon) and Boujemma Razgui (oud, nay, kemenche and vocals) the Brothers released their biggest Belly Dance album, Further Journeys (1994). In 1995 they teamed up with Tariq Banzi (oud, bouzouki, nay, riq and drums) and Attilio (keyboards) to release their 5th CD called Eye on the World. Michael Shrieve, of the original Santana band produced and played on it. Eye on the World includes their Middle Eastern version of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” heard on NPR.
The 1998 Heart of the Beast CD includes a unique version of The Yardbirds’ “Over, Under, Sideways, Down”.
One of their most popular CDs is the 2000 holiday CD A Time of Peace, which features instrumental Christmas songs performed on acoustic Middle Eastern instruments with traditional Middle Eastern rhythms. Hope (2003) includes electric and acoustic Arabic, Turkish and Armenian songs sung in both English and traditional languages. John Belezikjian (Master of the Oud) and Sulieman Felthouse (from The Kaleidoscope and Sirocco on oud, violin, jimbush and nay) are featured guests on the Hope CD. Another Belly Dance favorite CD, Presence of the Past (2005) brought a return to the traditional acoustic Middle Eastern sound again.
Their newest 2008 CD, Just Do What’s Right features Baladized versions of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What its Worth”, Neil Young’s “Rockin in the Free World” and Chris Rhea’s “Nothing to Fear”. This 11th CD also includes six Middle Easternized Rock originals and classic Arabic, Persian and North African songs Wy’ek, Wah Wah, Gole Khazan, Sidi Mansour and Perom Pom Pom.
Peter Helfand, Stuart Fessant, Brad Rapp, Dennis Elmer, Richard Rothfus (Pink Martini) and Mark Burdon (Vagabond Opera) have all been in the lineup through the years. The current band lineup includes Geoff George (Little Women) on keyboards, Daniel Eshoo on saz, oud and jimbush, Kerry Movassagh on saz and guitars, Mark Giles on drums and Beach and Kearsey.
Throughout these many changes Michael Beach still keeps his dreams alive of bridging musical and cultural gaps between the West and the Middle East. In addition to his work with Brothers of the Baladi, Beach is also a popular clinician, teaching Middle Eastern drum workshops. His 1992 instructional video/DVD Basic Middle Eastern Rhythms was the first instructional video of Middle Eastern rhythms and his 2004 solo CD Hands of a Thousand Dances is one the most their most popular downloaded CDs.
Michael Kearsey has recorded two solo albums – Suite for the Columbia Gorge in 1981 and Silverthaw in 1989. Allegro Distribution distributes all Brothers of the Baladi, Michael Beach and J. Michael Kearsey music in US and Canada.
Whether they are teaching music workshops, providing sound tracks for movies and TV shows, performing and recording traditional acoustic Middle Eastern music, Belly Dance music or rocking fans out on festival stages around the world, Michael Beach and his Brothers of the Baladi continue to embrace the true meaning of World Music. His years of dedication attest to his commitment to bring a new mix to World Music.