The rhythm, taste and smell of the Balkans in the heart of Europe

The Brussels Balkan Trafik Festival of Southeast European music, film and culture ended yesterday, after hosting more than 200 artists from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, and Greece, including Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine and more.


This year, from 1st to 4th May, the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels was a temple of entertainment for more than 7,000 people who had gathered from all over Europe and beyond to hear the sounds of the Balkans, watch movies from the area and participate in debates, as well as to enjoy the authentic tastes of wine, beer and a variety of food from the Balkans.

The 3rd day of the Festival was closed yesterday at dawn featuring the winners of "Guca 2013", the Kristijan Azirovic Brass Band, in concert. Earlier that evening one of the most visited festival appearances took place, made by Bilja Krstic, Amira Medunjanin and Tamara Obrovac, each performing traditional music from their own countries, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, respectively, accompanied by Serbian French jazz pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic and his orchestra. The greatest round of applause was given by the audience during the performance of "Jovano, Jovanke", the song which closed an hour and a half-long concert of “Les Femmes des Balkans”.

Visitors had the opportunity to hear the Queen of Roma music from Macedonia, Esma Redzepova, performing live with her 17 member-band Amazing Roma, as well as George Dalaras and Greek blues in an authentic Rebetika style, Johnny Iliev from Bulgaria, and Romanian band Mahala Rai. This year the festival hosted Ukrainian and Polish groups making their first appearances, while the focus of the festival was on Roma music and original Balkan jazz.

This was the second year in a row that NIS has sponsored the event, hosting the greatest stars of Southeast Europe.

The Balkan Trafik Festival is a collage of Southeast European cultures, giving visitors the perfect opportunity to taste food and drink in an authentically stylized Istanbul Mehana or a Greek Rembetiko Kafe, while enjoying the music and folklore.

Brussels itself is a multicultural city, a melting pot welcoming people from different nationalities, primarily owing to the numerous representatives of EU countries employed at the headquarters of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, as well as other European institutions, so it comes as no surprise that the cultural exchange-oriented Balkan Trafik Festival was well-received. The audience seemed to be diverse, the most numerous visitors coming from the Balkan Diaspora, but there were also locals born in Brussels who came, as well as many people from other continents.

Twenty-year-old Julien from Montreal came to the Festival on the recommendation of a friend from Brussels she is staying with.

“I came here to listen to the music. I’m not familiar with folk music nor any other Balkan music, I do not listen to it, generally speaking, but I like the music. A friend who was here earlier told me to be sure not to miss it. I like the atmosphere, the food, the people. I would like to come again next year.” - says Julien.

Her friend, 22-year-old Kroa, also from Quebec is at the Balkan Trafik Fastival for the second time.

“I like Balkan music very much. I'm a big fan of Emir Kusturica films. I’m familiar with the history of Yugoslavia, which I find quite interesting. I've been to Croatia a few times, and Slovenia, made some friends there and was introduced to the culture of your region.”

Organizers emphasize that throughout the year they travel around the Balkan countries in search of the most representative national artists to perform at the BOZAR Center. At the same time, national does not necessarily mean traditional. BOZAR featured ethno jazz and ethno rock, whereas a massive electronic party closed the four-day festival, since all of these make up the Balkans, and the people visiting the festival must be able to feel the richness and diversity of the region’s culture.

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