Music News

Critic's Choice

To fully prepare for a performance from the Brothers of the Baladi, who appear Friday, September 13, at Swallow Hill, you'd need to study a daunting number of phrase books: The Portland-based quintet performs in Turkish, Persian, Arabic, English and whatever other languages best serve the festive, eclectic feel of their sound, which is inspired by Middle Eastern traditions. Instruments that may strike American audiences as exotic -- darbukka drums, mizmar clarinets and bazouki-style mandolins -- intermingle with good old-fashioned electric guitar, violin and accordion in a thoroughly danceable dish that aims to demystify the music of the world's more shadowy regions. Orthodox and authentic it isn't -- the players mix Celtic styles and dirty funk into Moroccan-style dervishes, for example -- but that's part of the point. The Brothers of the Baladi purposely clash cultures, perhaps to demonstrate that such an experiment can have a positive outcome, even in a world that often suggests otherwise.