Fusing traditional Middle Eastern music with a rich blend of international influences and contemporary Western pop, rock, and jazz, eclectic world music ensemble Brothers of the Baladi have earned an international following for their intelligent, passionate music. Brothers of the Baladi were formed in 1975 by percussionist and vocalist Michael Beach, then working as a schoolteacher in Yuma, Arizona. Beach had struck up a friendship with Zamara, a local belly dancer, and formed the group with local musicians Colby Whipple, Peter Tilley, and Josh Mertz to provide accompaniment for her performances. Beach became increasingly fascinated with Middle Eastern music as he studied it more closely, and his interest in world music grew after jamming with renowned Latin jazz artist David Amram at the 1978 Vancouver Folk Festival and witnessing a performance by the Middle Eastern rock ensemble Sirocco.
When Beach relocated to Portland, Oregon, he fell in with like-minded multi-instrumentalist Joseph Pusey, and when they began performing together, Beach revived the name Brothers of the Baladi for their combo. Brothers of the Baladi began touring extensively in the United States and Canada, and in 1982 they released their first album, Dance with Gladness. Bass guitarist J. Michael Kearsey joined the band in 1989, and while Pusey parted ways with the Brothers in 1991, a pair of Middle Eastern musicians signed on, Ishmael and Boujemma Razgui, as the group continued to move away from traditional belly dance music to a more ambitious fusion of international sounds. In 1992, Beach released Basic Middle Eastern Rhythms, a successful instructional video for percussionists, and in 1995 former Santana percussionist Michael Shrieve produced the Brothers' album Eye of the World, which along with several original compositions featured a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" in the Brothers' trademark style. (It also introduced new group members Attillo and Tariq Banzi, who joined after Ishmael and Razgui departed.)
Their 1998 album Heart of the Beast featured another idiosyncratic rock & roll cover, the Yardbirds' "Over Under Sideways Down," as well as introducing new keyboard player Geoff George, and the following year they issued an album of holiday-themed music, A Time of Peace. On 2002's Hope, the Brothers showed off their multilingual skills, recording in several Middle Eastern languages as well as English (the group's members are fluent in seven tongues), and featured guest performances by Sulieman Feldthouse of the pioneering psychedelic ensemble Kaleidoscope. Beach released a solo project in 2003, Hands of a Thousand Dances, and in 2005 Brothers of the Baladi reconvened to record Presence of the Past, an album focusing on traditional Arabic, Turkish, and Armenian styles. The group's ambitious fusion of rock and world music returned on 2008's Just Do What's Right, which included covers of classic tunes by Buffalo Springfield, Chris Rea, and Neil Young along with a set of politically charged original numbers. It also was the last Brothers of the Baladi with George as a full bandmember; as of 2011, the group's official lineup featured Beach on vocals, percussion, and wind instruments; Kearsey on bass, percussion and vocals; Clark Salisbury on guitar, oud, saz, and vocals; and Fred Ingram on drum kit. ~ Mark Deming