Blesok no. 96, May-June, 2014
Sound Reviews


Astatke the Noble and Foltin the Furious
Photo: Robert Atanasovski

Toni Dimkov


The doctor of music, Mulatu Astatke and his band, as well as the unconventional music attraction, known as Foltin band, and their guests, brought back the times of the passionate concert experiences in Skopje.

We will immediately explain the thesis of the introduction to the review of the second evening of the 13th edition of Off-Fest, which took place in the Universal Hall. The cultural life of the capital has been experiencing quite a dynamics of events for some time now – concerts, festivals, exhibitions, performances. To be honest, there is enough audience for any cultural event. What is often missing is the passion to follow these events. The audience would simply show up at the event, applaud to have at least one encore (when it is a concert), and that is it. One can rarely experience an eruption of ovations that would not allow the performers to leave the stage.

The magic that happened at the performances of Foltin and Mulatu Astatke is the feeling that you don’t want them to leave the stage. The impressions are enhanced by the fact that the audience heterogeneous by age felt the same. Of course, not without a reason.

Foltin band has been into its mature phase for several years now. They paved their way with the first four albums: “Outre-Mer” (1997), “Archimedus” (2000), “Donkey Hot” (2003) and “Loo-lee-ta-too” (2005), breaking the forms, creating their Esperanto expressions, sailing on stormy Mediterranean poetry waters. With the next two albums, “This Transplanted Typewriter Has Never Typed a Love Letter Before” (2008) and “Antibody” (2012) they have discovered their spiritual depth, music perfection and stage fascination.

With their performance at the 13th Off-Fest they first did their best to play a fantastic concert, and secondly, they met the requirement of the organizer to have a Macedonian band at each edition. An additional motive is their min-tour, which started at the Slovenian festival “Druga godba” and  after Off-Fest will continue at the “Music Meeting” festival in the Netherlands.

Although they are considered to be an unconventional band, their approach to concert preparation is always serious. In this case, the participation of the guests Vasko Atanasovski (Slovenia) and Natalio Sued (The Netherlands) raised the concentration level. The percussionist Marjan Stanic (Slovenia) had already cooperated on Foltin’s albums and his presence had additionally enriched the sound image of their concert.

The increased woodwind section (Pece Nikolovski, Vasko Atanasovki, Natalio Sued) gives a grandiose rhythm to the pieces, percussion (Marjan Stanic) emphasizes the details, the rhythm section (Goce Jovanoski, Slavco Jovev) carries on the pace, the accordion (Pece Trajkovski) gives the authenticity, while the voice (Branislav Nikolov) with his specific multilingual expression and the auxiliary whistles gives the whole band some furiousness. The concert repertoire of Foltin has already become classic. Their passion for music was successfully transmitted to the audience, which reacted with ovations.

The music doctor, Mulatu Astatke demonstrated why he is called “the father of ethno-jazz”. Musicologically, because of his comprehensive work created in the 1960es, his music education in London, New York and Boston, the fact that he was the first African student who was admitted to Berkley, where he was awarded the honorary title “Doctor in Music” in 2012, his dedication to Ethiopian music, the influence that his music expression had globally, his cooperation with Jim Jarmush with his music for the “Broken Flowers” film.

Oliver Belopeta nicely put it in his announcement of Astatke – whoever wanted to know more about him should get the book “Mulatu Astatke: How to Make Ethno-Jazz” and one can find out almost everything.

However, with his performance in Skopje, Astatke also showed another, fatherly dimension. He was a real father to the members of his band. Apart from announcing every piece, he was also carefully announcing which one of his “children” would have the main role in the piece. They responded with a fantastic virtuosity themselves. It is impossible to determine which section is better – the woodwind, the string, of the rhythm section. The basic concept of the music is carried by Astatke himself, with the vibraphone and percussion, but the depth of his pieces is given by the individual performing skills of each individual musician.

The performance of Astatke was also a sight because of his facial expression while he played the pieces. Happiness is a word too small to describe his condition. Blessed pleasure is probably close to the real expression, but also the noble feeling that is caused by his music. His Skopje concert would be remembered because of this nobleness.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska




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