Blesok no. 21, June-July, 2001
Macedonia = Caledonia (?!)
Blues & Soul Festival (July,4-7 2001)
The fifth (the Jubilee) edition of the Blues & Soul Festival, as one of the Skopje Summer-s extensions, came real at the planned date (July 4–7, 2001) in the ambient of war engagements and attacks onto the integrity and sovereignty of this State –the State of Republic of Macedonia. Therefore, accordingly to this, it’s understandable that the criteria (in normal occasions strictly musical) for measuring the success of the Festival would be (forcefully) very different. With no single cancellation by the planned participants and with the noticeable presence of the audience that goes in favour of the upper line, the Festival – as a good opportunity for the people to escape the everyday tensions – must be marked with a highly positive pre-sign. In this bad times, for a shimmer or two we were in position to turn ourselves onto our individual soul’s needs and to ride onto the rhythm that all the other normal world pulses on. And, from this gloomy perspective of ours, is quite something.
In spite this actual positioning, this year’s edition of the Blues & Soul Festival undoubtedly did a mild programme “exodus” that goes in favour of the further positive establishing of the Event. Although the offer at this occasion was exclusively based on the Blues (that may, but not necessarily, mean the narrowing of the concept), this solution proved itself functional if the selection is done properly. Therefore, the direct “guilt” for that – the art director Vasja Ivanovski, as well as the Organisation – the Direction of Culture and Art of Skopje, are already in position to articulate there thoughts about the future of the Festival and the open opportunity to further widen the audience circles that understand the Blues as an universal music category.
This year, the Festival’s dome (as the consequence of this bad times) was the “oven” called Universal Hall in Skopje, the Blues & Soul Festival presented the various sounds of this musical segment. The starting evening was given to the debutantes from Prilep – Crossroad Blues Band, which in spite their own impression towards the act with wider than local understanding of the form (reaching the originality with the numbers in Macedonian language) were quite a solid introduction of the Festival events. C.J. Chenier(by the way – the son of the king of the “zydeco” music Clifton Chenier) with the inherited Red Hot Louisiana Band, introducing the contemporary elements into the amazingly exciting hybrid of the “American-French Blues” (the “folk” music„ of the Louisiana colonists, USA), for almost whole two hours was the “loud-speaker” of the optimism and the beautiful simplicity of the dance.
The Cambodian Bonny B., the virtuous accordionist with his companions – mostly Swiss blues musicians, told the story of “his life as an endless blues” reaching the best of the Chicago blues and the traditional music of his fatherland. But, his performance was just a “foreplay” for the performance of the –definitely – new blues star: recently anonymous Ana Popovic from Belgrade. With the strength and the certainty in the vocal performance and the guitar virtuosity common for the great masters, she – accompanied by the excellent band from Holland – easily proved why the producer Jim Gaines
(Santana, Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan) took her under his management, why for the album recorded in Memphis “HUSH!” are spoken so many great words by the critics, and why is she at the festivals side by side with Bernard Alison, WAR… With every right, Ana Popovic is marked as one of the greatest potentials of the blues’ future.
At the end of the Festival, the third night started with the local blues heroes Wild Bunch, leaders of the Macedonian emerging Blues-scene, with the more convincing performance than ever (especially with the classic “Caledonia”, “patriotically” renamed as “Macedonia”, with the guest on accordion – one of the members of the almost “domestic” band Blues Wire). After that came the performance of the old and common guests of the Festival and probably the strongest blues bands in Europe – above mentioned Blues Wire from Greece, with the culmination of the event: the appearance of the legendary U.P. Wilson, or – as he is being called – “The Texas Blues Guitar Tornado”. Unrepeatable.
Finally, even after this year’s successful edition of the Festival, some dilemmas remained open. It’s clear that the existing frames of the Festival became too narrow (and also the philosophy: little funds, good programme). Therefore, the Producer’s obligation towards the “blues habit” becomes much more serious. Namely, with not much larger budget and with the sliding terms of the Event which won’t be slaves to the existing one (let’s say May, June or September, October… or even as a separate Event), like the terms close to the kindred events in our neighbouring countries (for example, the Festival in Athens…). It won’t be a “sin” the wish if we would like to see in Skopje the stars as Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Gary Moore… or John Mayall, Peter Greene (and all those which fees aren’t that “scary”), or the programme-extravagant Burnside, John Spencer Blues Explosion… and lot of others that can ignite the wider interests and make the Event quite more noticeable in this part of the world. And, that is, in fact, the ultimate objective of the makers of the Blues & Soul Festival, isn’t it?
Translated by: Petar Volnaroski