You could be forgiven for not immediately thinking of Bulgaria when asked to contemplate the world's leading party spots. Lodged between Romania, Serbia, and the Black Sea, the Bulgarian government under Communist rule forbade sexual, and most forms of artistic, expression. But after the Iron Curtain tumbled, Western pop culture flooded into the country just as countless Bulgarians fled to Western Europe and America, as the country began to experience a long overdue cultural and creative revolution.
Joro-Boro was one of the ones who got out. After spending much of the '90s collecting cassettes by artists like Laurie Anderson and Siouxsie and the Banshees in Bulgaria, Joro-Boro came to the States, eventually winding up in New York. There, he hooked up with a community of young Balkan immigrants at the Mehanata Bulgarian Bar. Mehanata was originally just a restaurant, but as it became more and more popular with Bulgarian youth, it began booking bands and adding regular DJs, including Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz and Joro-Boro. Spinning boozy Balkan brass tunes with punk tracks and gypsy rhythms, Mehanata soared in popularity until Eastern European regulars complained that it had become too popular with New York hipsters. (Perhaps the club's "Get naked: free shot; Get fucked: free bottle" policy had something to do with its popularity.)
Among the music that Joro-Boro helped popularize at Mehanata was chalga, a drum machine-heavy, urbanized form of Balkan folk. A raw dance music with special emphasis on sex and drinking, chalga has drawn comparisons to the brash street style of Brazil's baile funk. Imagine Bonde do Rolê with slamming accordions and tambourines mixed in with their bass-laden synth beats, and you've got something close to chalga.
This weekend, Joro-Boro hits Portland to drop nonstop Balkan jams all over the dancefloor at Atlas, the dance night dedicated to delivering contemporary dance music from all over the non-Western world. Aside from the guys in Gogol Bordello, nobody represents the dirty party rhythms of the Eastern Bloc like Joro-Boro. So if you want to hear what happens to a country when you deprive it of sexual and musical expression for decades, and then suddenly turn it loose, Holocene is your place to be this Saturday night.