Five Questions With: Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics

Band: Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics
Country of Origin: Switzerland

I first learned of Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanics via Firewater. The band was promoting their guitarist’s latest record, which was also produced by Firewater’s Tod A. I’ve been a fan of Firewater’s world music-infused punk since The Golden Hour, so I was excited to hear what Miklo was up to with this new record.

The Cubalkanics’ release from late last year, Zivot, is an incredibly fun exploration of music where Eastern European Gypsy music and Cumbia happily exist hand in hand with elements of ska and surf. Zivot‘s sound is just as global as its players, featuring contributions from musicians located all around the world as you’ll read in Milko’s answers to this week’s “Five Questions With…”

Five Questions

1. What is your desert island disc (the one album you couldn’t live without?)

Already since a while I’m checking out microtonal music and I’m trying to adopt quarter tones on guitar. But on a desert island I would probably not think of checking out oriental scales. I should name some of my all time favorites because I’m always interested in the whole work of an artist or band. But the one album I have very strong connections with is The Golden Hour from Firewater. It changed my life in many aspects.

2. How did the band members meet (or, for a solo musician, how did you get started)?

I had an idea of the instrumentation of the group and was thinking of suitable musicians who dig the same music. Luckily everybody I had in mind joined the band. Then there were some changes in the beginning and after the recording of the second album our drummer left the band. All members are from Basel (Switzerland) our hometown, we all knew each other as friends and have played together in different projects or have studied at the same school. For the second album we also invited befriended guest musicians from Italy, Israel and Turkey I had already collaborated with. And my wife was singing on both albums.

3. What is the underground music scene like in your home country?

As probably in most cities the underground scene is pretty diverse. Basel is a pretty small city and everybody knows each other. There’s always some nice stuff happening like for example Zeal & Ardor popped out of the underground and brought a new shape of it’s genre to light. There’s a great scene of free improvised music and the underground rock and noise scene is wild. The Cubalkanics are still kind of exotic here around. You wouldn’t expect this music coming from Switzerland.

4. What are some of your biggest influences outside of music?

What influences me as a human being and especially for this project is traveling in other countries. For example I learned a lot about my ancestry after our travel to Cuba, since my parents fled from Czechoslovakia in the 70s. People influence me, their stories and characters can flow in the lyrics.

5. Tell us about your favorite show you ever played.

My favorite shows were as guitarist of Firewater touring in the U.S. But there’s one specific show I always will remember. As we played at Le Poisson Rouge in New York and Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow from Elysian Fields came on stage to perform one song with us.


Ryan first discovered his love of radio at WSOE FM, where he spent all 4 years of college as a DJ, 2 as program director, and 1 as general manager. While his musical tastes are fairly broad, he has a big nerdy spot in his heart for prog rock.