Blesok no. 39, November-December, 2004
Sound Reviews


Čalgija is the Pop Music of a Time
An interview with Dejan Spasović – Kaldrma

Ljupčo Jolevski


By popularising the čalgija music album, the Kaldrma project has been initially completed, following one year work of the memebers of the bands String Forces and Pece Atanasovski Orchestra. this announcement, signed by the producing house profundis, has eleven songs and dances, among which the unique Oj Zarino, Ajde dali znaeš pametiš Milice (Do you remember, Milica), Oj ti mome (Oh thou lass), Tri godini stana kako me zafana (It has been three years)… , noted at the concerts of Kaldrma in Kuršumli An and in the Army Hall in Skopje. all in all, this is another project that strongly supports the tradition and Macedonian music in this time of strong atacks on the real values and national self-awareness.

    The fifteen musicians that signed this project have an enormous love for the original form and especially for the neglected Macedonian čalgija. Therefore, it is quite the same which one of them would speak of their efforts on how they understand the Kaldrma activity. In this case, the correspondence was with Dejan Spasović, from Pece Atanasovski Orchestra. His opinions follow.

FORWARD IN OUR STORY
    – If you can tell where you come from, not which nationality you belong to, but simply what region you come from, you can surely tell what tradition you belong to. It also implies the questions like what your language is, what your culture is, what your music is, and how all of these elements are incorporated in you. Starting with this question, it is unavoidable for everyone involved in music in any way to encounter the question: what has been done before you and what your place in this whole story is.
    What Pece Atanasovski Orchestra has been trying to do in these past years in this field is how this story can be told.
    In the last ten years, Orchestra has been dealing with the issues of the original music of these areas. In the beginning, the energy that pushed the orchestra to go forward, that is, dig in the past can be described as a youthful infatuation. It was a dream of young people, unaware of the size of the chunk. But, as the time passed, the persistence of certain individuals led to something which started as a course in original instruments grow into a real orchestra, which found its place at the music arena of Macedonia.

ON THE BIG TEACHER PECE ATANASOVSKI AND ALL OTHERS FROM AND IN THIS TIME
    – Lot is known on the man whose name the orchestra has, as well as on the others known and not so known musicians from our history, but it is still not enough. We see the fact that we do not know to appreciate the names that we have as they are known and admired by people and fans of music that are not from here.
    I would not want to get into the already classical criticism, which is present at these areas, and start talking about the circumstances and troubles that led us to the situation that the traditional music is practically at the verge of dying out. I can freely say that people who visited the course of uncle Pece got on the last train to meet a man who did a lot on the Macedonian traditional music. His size was equal to his modesty and self-criticism. I will never forget when he told us: I can show you what you should not do, and it’s up to you to discover what you should do.
    Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to meet a big part of the other big musicians who created in these areas, because when we started understanding what traditional music was, they were no longer alive.
    The only mediator among the people who want to play traditional music today and the great masters that are no longer with us are the recordings of the Macedonian radio.

ROAD TO KALDRMA
    – Unlike the traditional original music, which still has its representatives around Macedonia, the situation with the čalgija music can be called disastrous. Besides the three-four musicians of the already non-existent čalgija orchestra of the Macedonian radio, there is nobody else who plays the original Macedonian čalgija. If you want to buy some CD with čalgija music, if you are lucky, you will find the only cassette of the Čalgija orchestra of MRTV, and that is all.
    This was a provocation for us to start with the Kaldrma project, whose only goal was to play the čalgija music, even on quite non-čalgija like instruments. Some closing of the first round of the Kaldrma project and feeling the pulse of the audience was the publishing of our first album. Our only goal was to see whether our dream is only ours or there are others who want to share it with us.

CIRCLE IS CLOSED OR…
    – Will we do our best not to close the circle. On the contrary. Our idea is that it grows into a spiral that would lead to a revival of the čalgija in the country. We have some plans to hold concerts in and outside Macedonia, but I think it is not enough to fulfill the goal. A bigger part of the project would involve people interested in the čalgija music via workshops and seminars. Even if there are conditions for this, to also have čalgija music schools, that would deal with both with the theory and practice of čalgija music. What makes the Macedonian čalgija different than other similar styles, which we can find with our neighbors.

ON FANS AND FOLLOWERS OF OUR TRADITION
    – While we have persistently managed to forget what our tradition and culture is, and especially what čalgija music and culture is, in the last twenty and something years, people who have seen the size of this phenomenon and do not come from Macedonia, have been persistent in presenting it in a dignified manner. Practically and theoretically. A significant example is the professor and ethno-musicologist Walter Sweets from the Netherlands, an old friend of Pece Atanasovski. He established the orchestra Chalgija, made only of Dutch musicians, some thirty years ago and presented the Macedonian čalgija around the world with it in its original shape. Professor Sweets is a man who has directly met the big names of the Macedonian čalgija and was a direct student and researcher of the čalgija phenomenon in Macedonia.
    We were lucky to contact this 72-year old man after a long search on the Internet. Only couple of minutes talking to him was enough for him to be delighted by the idea to help us in the revival of the čalgija arena in Macedonia.

AUDIENCE – SOURCE OF ENERGY
    – Čalgija was the pop music of an era. It directly communicated with the population, that is, the people. The good pop music becomes an evergreen after a while. So, something that once functioned still functions today. Our proof for this claim is first of all, the accidental and unexpectedly big concert that took place in Kuršumli An on 19 September last year. Without almost any advertising, more than 500, first of all, young people came to this concert. This continued with the Kaldrma appearances that took place in Kula this summer, as well as the album promotion in front of Record Records. For us, this is an additional source of energy, but also a big responsibility and obligation.

HOW TO STAY OURSELVES IN THE SOUND FOR TOMORROW
    – As I mentioned before, everyone who claims that he is a musician should make a step backwards to history with every step forward, because without this, the whole situation could be called inventing warm water.
    Only those bands inspired by what their grandparents played and sang have become popular outside Macedonia. But, nevertheless, I think that there should be bands that go back to tradition in its original form. This was the example and basic motto of the Pece Atanasovski Orchestra. We only transformed it in the Kaldrma project.

UNTIL WHEN WILL THE RAJNA SPASOVSKA PROJECT BE KEPT CLOSED
    – Rajna Spasovska is one of the last living treasures of the Macedonian original music, whom we met several years ago. An album with 13 songs came out of this, and it has been waiting for several years to be published. We hope that this year this project will see the light of the day.

MUSIC IN KULA, WEDDINGS, FRIENDSHIP…
    – Our idea is to play everywhere where there is music needed. Wherever we appear, we will present our traditional music in a dignified way. Our čalgija. No matter whether it is a wedding, bar or the street. One of the ways that we chose and saw were the unconventional appearances within the summer project Relaxed in Kula. People would reserve tables in advance for our appearances there and they were very interested in when the next event would be.
    On top of this, it is beautiful that our original music is returning to the Macedonian weddings. I even think that there will be a time when it will take the place of the newly composed and turbo-folk music. And the friendship is there. Wherever there is music for the heart played, people are relaxed and spontaneous.

… AND NEW PROJECTS
    – Besides the projects related with the traditional music, many people included in Kaldrma, also play contemporary music. It is an already checked way of creating authentic pop-culture with original means. It is enough to look at the Pakistani sub-culture stage in England. In the last couple of years it gave the names of: Asian Dub Foundation, Talwin Singh, Karsh Kale, Fundamental…
    The people who are in Kaldrma also work in other projects, which are not experimental, because they have the starting point and quite a clear idea where they want to go. How they want the final product to sound.
    When I am saying this, I think of String Forces, Grendini Project (this group presented their electro-acoustic material this summer as part of Relaxed)…
    On top of this, it is interesting that the big singer Vanja Lazarova and her husband Duško Dimitrovski, together with Risto Solunčev and with Dejan Acevski, members of Pece Atanasovski Orchestra, are preparing a project that will soon show how one can move forward and build a new sound founded on the native music language.




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