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The Balkan Adventures

Folk Combo

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By Folk Combo, Mar 21 2015 04:11PM

On how Folk Combo slipped downhill to Ohrid’s Lake, got enchanted by the Oliver’s Rumbacho from Bitola, became a resident band for a week at the Old Town Brewery in Skopje, learned all about the Macedonian folk with Velika and immersed themselves for two days in the snow of Pristina


After being released from the drug inspectors at the Albanian border and getting an easy way trough the Macedonian one, we drove the Villa downhill, still afraid of our lack of wheel chains. Macedonia welcomed us with a wet night in Ohrid, where we camped next to the big lake. The next day we were blessed with a sunny day and we seized the opportunity to do some busking and earn some 'denars' next to the statues of the brothers Cyril and Methodius, the guys responsible for the cyrilic (кирилица) alphabet, used in Macedonia, other countries of the Balkans and Russia.


From Ohrid we drove to Bitola. It was raining there too and we decided to keep on driving to Skopje. But before continuing our journey we wanted to recharge a bit so we had coffee and cake in the Art Caffe, where one more time destiny had something unexpected waiting for us. We met Oliver, the owner of the place, who sat down with us and heard us out about our adventures. He knew a place in Skopje for us to go and provided us with the contact of an old friend of his. Then more ideas came to his mind and he took us to the Porta Jazz, a notorious jazzclub in Bitola where we could perform. He was devoting all his attention on us and sometimes it is surprising to see how one person becomes involved in our dynamic. Oliver is another example of the kind hearted and interesting people that are so wiling to help us and stop whatever activites they are involved in and share whatever they have to offer. He would, in many ways, define our coming days in Macedonia. While waiting for Dado, the owner of the jazz club, Oliver took us out to a restaurant. He made us try delicious Macedonian food and rakijas and thought of some more ideas to take our project to other distant places. We went back to the jazzclub and got a deal to play there the following night. The night ended quite late with a nightcap back at the Art Caffe where we got to know his crew and enjoyed a glass of red wine while we played them a couple of our tunes; it was the first time Macedonian people listened to us playing our Macedonian songs and we got their blessings. The morning after we tried more of Oliver's homemade speciallities, Gijs's favourite: 'rumbacho'. The perfect balance between RUM, BAnana and CHOcolate...delicious! We both were very impressed by the amount of effort and creativity Oliver puts into his work. His place has a very relaxed atmosphere, good music, original recipes and a gallery for artists to exhibit paintings and art. He told us he was a painter too but due to the course of life, which sometimes goes against your dreams, he had to put his creativity into a different form. We were surprised to find out that if it was up to Oliver, he wouldn't be in this kind of business, reminding us that not everybody is free to shape the course of their lives. It was a beautiful day and we went for a busking session in Bitola before going to set up the show at the Porta Jazz. At the club, we were hosted by Vasko, one of the managers. He treated us as real artists and he took us out for lunch and arranged us accomodation for the night. The show went great and the place was busy with people. We got a lot of positive feedback and we were thrilled with being the focus of attention of so many listeners who seemed to like these two folkies.


We said goodbye to Bitola and its lovely people and went to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. This city is crowded with statues and buildings of grandeur. It has a strange beauty; on one hand this revival of prestiguous antiquity allows you to dream about the golden days, but on the other hand one could doubt what is beneath the surface, seeing a big contrast existing between the train station and the Alexander the Great Square. These social and political problems are on the tip of everybody's tongue. First we went to the library to hunt for folk music transcriptions. Macedonia has a special place in our musical interest since it is one of the most diverse; they don't call the mix of fruits a Macedonian salad for nothing. Although there was plenty of material, it took a lot of effort to get hold of it. We had to subscribe to a list of conditions with a letter to the director to emphasize the scientific and educational purposes of our humble project. Eventually we made friends with Eleni and her collegues, who also admitted being frustrated with the new laws about copyrights and the digitalization policies of the library. This clearly made their work a lot harder too. We made a nice selection of scores and we could pick them up after the weekend. Eleni also connected us to a friend of hers, Velika, an etnomusicologist who works at the Institute for Folklore, who we would meet later that week.

The next day, we went to meet Pane Temov, an old friend of Oliver. This man, who once was a professional puppet artist, now runs two bars in Skopje together with his friend Fimka and they organize many cultural events in Macedonia. The Old Town Brewery is a place where the audience has the chance to listen to live music everyday, order food and drinks at any time of the late night and whose wide space lets one find a spot in the loud or in the quiet side of life. We introduced ourselves to Pane, trying to catch his attention with our stories for more than 5 minutes, which was quite a challenge due to his hyper character and the demands of the bussiness. Pane has had such an inspirational life that is difficult not to dream with half of the experiences he went though; he has travelled all around the world starting as a street puppet artist till getting offers to perform in big festivals, for important personalities (the Dutch queen) and for TV shows (Sesame Street). The Invisible Master is one the multiple faces of this man who is driven by a genuine life philosophy and has taken the busking art to a higher level, like creating the Buskerfest of Skopje. On the question about what is left of that bohemian life style reaching the fifty-something with children and so many employees under his eye, Pane replied: “I was happy doing my show then and I’m happy with the new challenges of today, guess it’s a matter of being satisficed with your choices”. After having the feeling to be in the right bohemian world Pane provided us with food and a place to stay for almost a week, what made us to forget about the hard time experienced during the last stormy week. We became one of the residential bands, starting the nights as the appetizers before the other artists.


Twice, we met with Velika Stojkova, dedicated ethnomusicologist at the Institute for Folklore of Macedonia. We were received at her office in an almost impossible place to be found. She looked young and modern, in character and in methods. We had clarifying conversations about the state of art of Macedonian folklore, her research and our little project. It was very insightful to let her draw us the picture of her country, not only concerning music culture. In the course of this trip we already learned that the Balkans are the meeting point between East and West, but now we understood that Macedonia is “the thermometer of stability of the Balkans due to the complex scenario regarding ethnicities, confessions and the geopolitical position” –said Velika. “ “One of our neighbors denies our name, the other our borders and another one our language”. The knowledge that Velika was unfolding in front of our eyes made clear to us how the beauty of the Macedonian music shapes a whole identity created by a real diversity, lived and breathed by the people we met there, singing, dancing and knowing it by heart. Hope to collaborate with you Velika in a near future, thanks for the lessons.


To complete the list of the former Yugoslavia we went to Pristina, capital of Kosovo. At the border, we were told that car insurance that wasn't covered by our 'Bosnia Green Card' and we had to buy an insurance. Getting a bit tired with all this border stuff we almost went back but eventually we gave in, knowing that we would regret it later if we wouldn't go.. It was snowing and freezing in Pristina. At first glance, Pristina looks like a quiet city, very international oriented with a considerable big amount of police (governmental and UN). Mainly populated by Albanians, the city shows statues with guns in honor of some heroes fallen during the war, some of them also were redecorated with the Albanian flag, which in any case shows the healing process that the whole country is inmersed in. By the hand of some people from Mitrovice (a city more to the north in the country) we heard that one extreme case of this process is happening in their city, divided by the river in two sides, where Serbians and Albanians never cross the bridge to meet each other.

Pane connected us with Alex and Etida who own a beer brewery called the Sebanja. They took us to a little coffee/bookshop, the Dit 'e Nat (day and night), where we met Bardh, who programmed us for a show that night. The listeners were very interested and when the music finished, the show developed into a sort of lecture about our trip. We, being the folklorist-musician-researchers, explained our goals, methods and findings, while the audience asked questions. One of the guys in the audience asked us: "But WHY do you play OUR music? It is not cool!" We really had to defend our position and show him that we didn't have any bad intentions. The way the night developed was great and afterwards we got to meet many of the people inside. They bought us drinks and the topic of our adventure continued to shape the conversations. Later that night, together with our new friends, we went to a reggae show in a basement bar. They definitely know how to party in Pristina and hours later, after dancing and drinking, we returned to the Villa happy and satisfied with the great day in snowy Pristina. At the National library, we met Schkumbin, a teacher and singer, who made sure that we got everything we wanted from their archives. He was very hepfull and lended us his office and scanner and really became part of our team for a little while, suggesting all kind of potentional sources and contacts, like the Radio Kosovo. There we met Selvete Ismaili, an award winning composer, who lost her manuscripts during the war, and Remzi, who provided us of nummeorus recordings of Kosovarian music. We said goodbye to Pristina and prepared to go to south of Romania. Such a week...



By Folk Combo, Mar 5 2015 07:51PM

On how Folk Combo searched between the mountains of Montenegro for their music, found hope for the folklore in Albania and were assisted by a group of young saviors on to their next destination.


We arrived in Montenegro, a country named after its landscape: black mountain. We were driving on a road surrounded by the great outdoors and going towards the 'new' capital Podgorica. We saw disturbing images of a river whose banks were covered with litter and trash and the forest next to it was almost white with an enormous amount of plastic bags hanging on the branches of the trees. Shocking. What are these people doing to their environment? We arrived in the city later that day and went for a busking session. Two youngsters, who got enchanted by our music, came up to us and wondered what our story was. They showed us around the city and brought us to a local restaurant to try one of the most filling and mighty recipes of cheese and wheat and pfff.. what a bomb! We both couldn't walk straight afterwards. The next day we went to do our library routine. The national library, however, was not in Podgorica nd we had to go to Cetinje the 'old' capital up in the mountains. On our way there we saw one of the most amazing views of mountain scenery; an endless sea of stone giants as far as the eye could reach. The Villa was slowly crawling up the road while we sat amazed by the display of majestic nature in front of us. So much so that we forgot to take a picture...whoops.


An interesting sequence of wasted energy transpired in Cetinje. First we were directed to a part of the national libary in the former French embassy building but it wasn't the right place to find music scores. So we were send to the former Italian embassy where the music department was located. They were just closing but luckily one woman was willing to show us the music archive. The only piece of traditional Montenegro folkmusic available was lying mummified in a glass box unaccesible to the public and useless to us since we want to PLAY that stuff and not just look at it. So we were again, redirected, this time to the music academy in the former English embassy. It was rather quiet there on the late friday afternoon but there was one violin student there around who explained to us that the academy doesn't have any collection of traditional folklore anymore since it was moved to the art academy in the former... whatever...embassy. She then told us there was a fire in that building in which the whole collection went up in flames. So we were just standing there, slightly bewildered and amused, after the strange conclusion to this story. Like all the diplomats, all the music too, had disapeared.


The next stop was Kotor, a small but beautiful toy town a the bay next to the mountains. It has a picturesque historic centre and bears some resemblance to the other cities on the Adriatic coast that we visited in Croatia. We played in the main gate and earned our accomodation for a night in a hostel. The next day we went out to play again, sparked with the good energy and response of the night before, but this time we were stopped after three songs by the communal police.We talked to the chief of the bunch and he told us we might endanger the entrance to the city where people could break their leg over the violin case...or someting like that?! So he led us to the Old Winery, a bar were we might be able to play a show. While waiting for their manager, we went for a walk to the old fortress that lies above the city against the mountain. With the instruments on our backs and one layer of clothes too many for that sunny day we climbed up the mountain. David slightly in front and Gijs puffing and groaning behind him, knowing that the view would be worth it. Up there we met Cedo. He went there to get a break from his working week and after talking and relaxing in the sun we walked back together to the city. We went to the winery where we got a deal to play for that night and before the performance we had a couple of drinks with Cedo next to the port. It was a rather quiet night in the bar but the owner Goran really liked our music and he slipped the invitation of coming back this summer to play more shows in Kotor. After the show we said goodbye to Cedo, who became our PR for Montenegro, and to Goran and his Old Winery crew before continuing our journey.


We camped that night in Bar, next to the sea, where we were just in time to see a strange moon dive into the water. Then we went to Ulcinj, where the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes once was held in prison before writing his great novel 'Don Quixote'. Legend tells that the lady of his protagonist, 'Dulcinea del Toboso', was named after this town. His novel about the infamous hidalgo from la Mancha has been travelling with us on our journey and we followed this trail to see where Cervantes once had been caged and robbed of his freedom, the freedom that we are so privileged with to travel around these lands. Like Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza in search of adventures. From Ulcinj we went into the mountains to reach the lake of Skadar. We followed a dangerous road up into the mountains and after some hours of bouncing and avoiding stones we finally found it. We walked around to find a good spot to camp. On the road we saw a donkey equipped with bridles and saddle bags but no owner around. Allthough it was just a donkey, for us it was the lost dun of Sancho Panza who was stolen by a bandit and suddenly emerged in the mountains of Montenegro.


That night the weather went bad. The storm didn't stop so we decided to move on and drive to Albania. We went to Tirane, the capital of the Eagles' Land. We both knew little about this country but while going out for a beer we learned that the language has little to do with Slavic and it never was part of Yugoslavia; it is a strange flower in the Balkan garden. We were surprised by the amount of casinos and expensive cars that contrasted sharply with the poor state of the streets and the decadence of the buildings . We were refused in a disco for not having any girls with us and then went back to the Villa. The next day we went to Durres, a city by the sea where, due to the bad weather, we stayed inside a coffeeplace. Afterwards we went looking for a hostel but finding only expensive hotels. 'Hotel Manhattan', 'Hotel Paris'. We were getting the impression that they didn't gave any attempt to present themselves with an Albanian brand and a man at the coffeeplace referred to this as 'copy-paste tourism'. Strangely, these places were all located a little too close to the sea, sometimes only half finished and the whole picture struck us as not very prepensed. The next day, before going back to Tirane, we went to the folklore institute where we met Antigone Suli and her colleagues. They are preserving the cultural heritage of Albania and we talked with them about our project.In the music academy of Tirane we met Fatos, a music teacher and clarinetist, part of the Qerimay family that has a long tradition of folk musicians. We also met Zana, the director of the academy, who put us in contact with etnomusicologists Mikaela and Vasil, who are researching traditional Albanian folk music. After meeting these interesting people we said goodbye and headed for Macedonia.


There was a big snowstorm and we had to get to the other side of a mountain to reach the border. With every minute we drove, the layer of snow of the road was getting thicker and soon we found ourselves stuck on the road, slipping and sliding away in any direction but forward. A bunch of local boys came up to us to sell winter chains (we still don't have them..). They had a whole business there since we were not the only people having trouble going up. They helped us push the car but it worked only for a moment. They had a lot of fun seeing us struggle and said it would be better stop or buy their chains. We started to like each other and, after telling them our story about the trip, they lended us their chains. With three of them in the back and two small jokers skirting behind the car, we drove to the top. One of them asked, via translation of his friend: "what is the price of a carwash in your country?" Surprised by that question, we asked them why they wanted to know. Being seventeen or eighteen, some of them were professional carwashers and wondered if they would have a chance of a better future abroad. This triggered a reflection of how the youth of Albania has to adapt to the market: all those expensive cars we saw in Tirane create the kind of jobs that these youngsters are left with. The boys showed us how negative is the perception of their country and they wanted to make us see that they were also full of dreams. We reached the top and shared our drinks and cigarettes. Then we said goodbye to our Albanian young saviors without whom we would have never made it to Macedonia that night.


By Folk Combo, Feb 12 2015 09:50PM

On how Folk Combo went to Serbia, jammed with gypsies, were adopted by the lovely couple Zivena and Charles in Belgrade, visited the Küstendorf Film Festival in Mokra Gora, met Mara from the MakaMara and other unforseen adventures starring mud, snow and rakija.


We entered Serbia and took the national roads in the direction of Belgrade. The fog was so dense we could hardly see a thing. Suddenly, on the side of the road, we saw smoke, flames and silhouets of people...with instruments! We looked at each other, stopped, reversed, and parked the Villa next to a gypsy party. They were celebrating the Orthodox New Year, playing and singing, drinking, eating and making a fire...with car tires. We introduced ourselves, grabbed our instruments and played along. The wine bottle went from hand to hand and we were invited to join their dinner, a menu of frozen pork, bread and very spicy chilli peppers. After the dinner we gave them a taste of our Folk Combo repertoire. When the smell of burning rubber was getting a little overwhelming, we thanked them for the party, the drinks and the food. But they didn't want us to leave! The father reached for his pockets and wanted to pay us for our music, a gypsy custom. He became quite emotional, giving us big hugs with kisses when we left. We got back in the car and drove off, leaving in a haze of rubber fumes, alcohol and music. Finally, we found genuine gypsy musicians!


We arrived in Belgrade later that evening and went for a busking session, eager to test the water of this Balkan metropole. After getting a good buch of reactions, charming winks and dinnars ;-) the cherry on the top was still coming. Half way in one of our songs a man and woman came to us, they asked: "Where are you sleeping?". "In the car", we replied. "Ohh, well, you can stay at our place" they told us. Astonished, together we drove with them to their house. Charles and Zivana Alverson live in a beautiful apartment in Zemun, a city on the other side of the Danube river touching Belgrade. In our conversations with Zivana we had the chance to learn and understand the history of Serbia through her experienced eyes of a journalist. Endless nocturnal conversations spiced up with cigarres and good laughs led to deep reflections on how history develops more through people lives than through static monographs inevitably conditionated by the one who writes them. Charles Alverson shared with us the adventures he went through being a young freelance writer traveling from the Caribbean till Morocco and how now, overseeing his 70’s, writing is still a way to keep travelling . Both young spirits offered to us everything they have and gave us the opportunity to see the Symphonic Orchestra of Belgrade and to meet its musicians, to discover the markets, streets and corners of Zemun; in other words, to be part of their everyday lives. Our project also inspired them to get an interview for us with Radio Belgrade 2 by Miska Knezevic. Here we would like to make a special thanks to them, for their kindness, generosity and hospitality. Dear Zivana and Charles, thank you so much for everything!


In the library of Belgrade we met Vesna Aleksandrovic, a teacher and professor at the department of music. She was very friendly and helpful in our search of Serbian folk music. Together we selected a compilation of recordings and transcriptions to add to our music database. We also talked about the state of art of folk music in Serbia, which seems to be in an endangered state due to a new predator, the loud and noisy turbofolk. This modern and speeded up version of what used to be folk music is gaining a lot of popularity, subculture like, as the music of the nouveau riche. Allthough, at that point we haven't listened to any turbofolk, we would get our share of it the next evening. We ended up in a bar where we expected to find traditional music but found this instead. No acoustic instruments and traditional costumes but keyboards, electric guitars, the latest fashion trends and a decibel level so unnaturally loud that it makes the ears bleed. In probably less than half an hour, we looked at each other and got the folk out of there.


After Belgrade, we went to Mokra Gora to attend the Film & Music Festival in Küstendorf, a village created by the film director Emir Kusturica. Our main reason for going were the Taraf de Haidouks, the famous gypsy ensemble that would perform there. At the festival we ran into Zivana and Charles from Belgrade which was a very nice rendez vous. Zivana even talked to Mr. Kusturica to ensure that we wouldn't be kicked out of the parking lot where we were camping with theVilla. We didn't have any accreditation for the festival and the overseer was getting a bit annoyed with our presence (thank you Zivana, again) So we could stay and hang around as musicologists. We recorded some of the music concerts and met some interesting people among the other visitors, like the future of Serbia, a group of inspirational youngsters with whom we talked and discussed until the late night hours. The highlights of the festival were Adam Stinga with the Novi Sad Big Band, who completely blew our minds, and the movie The Owners by director Adilkhan Yerzhanov.


From Mokra Gora we went to Uzice. First we didn't think much of this city but luckily we discovered its beautiful parts a while later. We went for a busking session which seemed to cheer up the people who were really enjoying our musical contribution on that greyish afternoon. Afterwards we got kicked out from our spot by the police for bringing all this positive energy and musical vibrations. In those circumstances we met Mara, who invited us to play at his bar after hearing our street performance. At his bar, the MakaMara, we played a gig for a slightly indifferent audience - the paradox of the context: in the streets music colours the space while in a room fights for attention -. Next day, after a walk in the canyons around Uzice by Mara’s hand, we discovered the poet inside of this man of humble smiles, simple, peaceful life with effective proverbs that Gijs would repeat for a few days: “Traveling is the treasure of the mind”. We had lunch together at a picturesque fish restaurant in Potpeće and, after that comforting afternoon, we said goodbye to Mara hoping that one day his travelling nature will bring him to Spain or the Netherlands where we could return the favour of sharing such a nice time with us.


We left Uzice and went to Visočka to find the natural thermal pools hidden in the mountains. We found the pools but while trying to park the Villa it got stuck...again! The ground next to the river was very soft and, without us realizing it, one side of the car was slowly sinking into the mud. Since the probability of another cavalry rescue unit from Romania was quite small, we had no choice but to stay there that night and await the light of day to look for help. Trying not to think about the poor Villa, we went on with our bathing plans. The next morning we woke up covered in snow and, unable to recognize the tracks, our chances to escape seemed to shrink with every snowflake. While David was digging out the wheels of the car with a snow scraper, Gijs walked up the hill to find somebody that might offer us a helping hand. He found a house, knocked on the door and a man and woman opened. Gijs was invited in and tried to convey the message about the situation with the car using a pen and paper to draw pictures after which they seemed to understand the situation. The woman made coffee and the man poured him a shot of rakija, and another one, and another one, živeli! at 11 o'clock in the morning. In the meantime David had been working in the dirt with frozen hands and no coffee or drinks for consolation. Gijs, cheerful and tipsy, came back with Mr. Vukosav and together with his help we managed to put the Villa back on solid ground. More rakija's were poured after this victorious liberation and we thanked Mr. Vukosav, our savior in the snow, for all his help. We made our way out of the snowy mountains trough a tricky and treacherous road and after having survived this perilous journey we concluded our time in Serbia with the concert of the Taraf de Haidouks before heading on to the next chapter.




By Folk Combo, Jan 31 2015 03:44PM

On how Folk Combo landed on planet Bosnia, hassled around with some 'policija' and found a sweet bohemian island in Sarajevo.


We drove the Villa into the majestic mountains of Bosnia. We found ourselves on a road surrounded by stone giants, huge walls of rock and steep ridges. The sky was clear and filled with stars and the full moon illuminated the white winter scenery. The crown of the mountain popped out against the black canvas of the night, reflecting a mystikal blue light. The surroundings combined with the music of the Rennaisance turned this drive into a sort of mysterious dream. We were like two astronauts, gliding with their space vehicle on the surface of some strange planet. Via numerous tunnels with ice stalactites on the ceiling, we drove deeper into the heart of this mountain planet. After going up again we reached a point were we had a good view over the area we just crossed. We went out of the car and it was freezing cold. We had a beer and a smoke and gazed for a while upon the incredible scene. We could see only a few lights of life, dispersed over a huge space, probably miles away from each other. This must be a harsh and difficult habitat for human beings to live in.


We continued our journey towards Sarajevo. Just before we reached the city, around 2 o'clock in the night, a police car appeared in the rear window and signalled us to stop. Two cops stepped out and asked us for "dokumenti". Neither of them spoke English and they had some trouble explaining to us that we were speeding. Eventually, they wrote our speed on a piece of paper, showing a ridiculous number that was clearly a fraud. We realized that these guys were trying to squeeze us for some money. Sure of our innocence and refusing to play along this game we showed them our TomTom with speeding-alarm. 1-0 for Folk Combo! In the meantime, they kept speaking in Bosnian, probably trying to think of other ways to continue their little scheme. Then one of the cops pointed at the indicator lights. One of them didn't work at that moment and they thought they had us. They demanded 20 euro's or the same amount in Bosnian currency. We emptied our pockets, pretending to look for something to give them. David fished a note of 20 kunas (=1 euro), left from Croatia, out of his pocket and showed it to the cops. They looked quite annoyed, waving away the note as it were some dirty thing. They asked us where we were going. "Romania", we lied. "Why Romania?". We are muzikanti. "Ahhh, muzikanti!", and then we could go, because they know all too well, musicians don't have any money. We were both very satisfied with the conclusion of this story.


When we finally got to Sarajevo we were welcomed by a pack of street dogs, barking agressively at the Villa and chasing us down the road. We drove around a few times, since cops were also swarming around the streets and we had enough of them for one day. Finally we found a place to sleep for the remaining hours of the night and the next morning we woke up and went out to explore the city. About 50 meters from the Villa we found a hostel/jazzcafé: The Pink Houdini. We went inside and it was a basement bar, decorated with posters of jazz legends, a big projector screening concert footage of Chet Baker on the wall, and on the tables you could find books of photography, music and art. The man who owns, created and personifies this bohemian island introduced himself as Beko Teka. He offered us a bed in his hostel in exchange for a music performance. Beko is a true free spirit and the type of relaxed guy that does exactly what he feels like. In the following days, he would ask us on several times: "would you like to... try the instruments?", meaning, come out and play guys. One night at the Houdini, we were asked to play together with the regular jazzband. This spontaneous and unprepared formation was later coined: "The International Confusion Band" by The Professor (bassist Ivo); because nobody knew what was going to happen. It was a great experience and we were very impressed by these excellent musicians. They joined us, without blinking, head first into our folk repertoire. On saturday we played another gig, this time in our regular settings. Since we didn't had a proper stage that night, we had to sit between the guests trying not to knock over their drinks while we were playing. It went well and we got a good response from the audience.


We payed a visit to the library and the music academy where we met a professor of etnomusicology and learned a bit more about the folkmusic of Bosnia. This music is just like the community: a mix of cultural identities. The historical centre is very Oriental and everywhere you look you find little bazars, restaurants and coffeehouses. On Sunday we had a nice walk to the hill to get a good overview of the the city. We met two young guys along the way, who showed us how to get to the 'high part' and after a little chitchat with these friendly boys we continued our hike. At the viewpoint we had a beautiful panorama of Sarajevo. After spending the days in the crowded and tiny streets, we could now breathe in the space from a different perspective.


Sarajevo is a city which inspires many reflections: having such a difficult recent history the people seem to be looking forward to a new era to come where differences are diluted in a good coexistence, although for the outsiders the city speaks in other directions. There are cemeteries in unexpected places, big temples that state the presence of loyal parishioners, spontaneous ambulant markets where one can find products from vegetables till controversial memorabilia like pens made of used bullets, making the visitors look at Sarajevo with high respect. The air is heavy in some ways, specially looking at the mountains around the city where only 20 years ago a siege of 4 years took place, the longest of modern history. As a living example of that time: it is still dangerous to walk around in some hills due to undetonated mines.


When we got back at the Houdini, we played a private concert for Beko, Irena and two bartenders and got invited by Irena to watch a play at the National Theatre of Sarajevo. The play was in Bosnian, so we didn't get a single word of the story, but it was still an interesting evening and a new way of experiencing theatre. The next day, after one more stroll around the town to take pictures, we bought a book with sevdalinkas (trad. urban folk music) and some bureks (Turkish pastries) for the road. We packed our stuff and said goodbye to Beko and the other Houdini's, leaving with a sweet taste in our mouths, thinking of the great people we met and the best cake that we have ever tasted (see picture of this tri leče!). Bye bye, sweet home Sarajevo!






By Folk Combo, Jan 20 2015 12:29AM

On how Folk Combo spended a splendid week in sunny Croatia.


On the first day of January, we woke up, slightly hungover, next to the Adriatic sea in Opatije. It was a beautiful sunny day and from the Villa we could see many people striding along the boulevard, enjoying the particularly nice weather. We got up, had our coffee and cigarettes and thought it might be an good day to do some busking in the sunshine. So we quickly changed into our folky outfits and set up our act on a nice bench overlooking the bay. It was the most relaxed and easy busking session ever, since we weren't below zero for once and we could actually feel our hands and fingers while playing. The Villa was right behind us and we could easily jump back into the car to make a coffee and grab something to eat. We fed the pidgeons with some old pieces of bread and we even rehearsed some new songs. The people were very charmed by our music and the kunas were steadily filling up the mandolin case. A few hours later, when we finished and counted the money, we realized we broke the Bratislava record, that, until then, seemed unbeatable. We were sitting in the car feeling like two maffiosos while stacking up the bills and coins on our improvised camping table. A very promising start, we both agreed, and the earnings were spent on a huge bag of groceries. which included basically everything we liked from the supermarket.

From Opatije, we followed the coastline down south. We found an excellent camping spot on the insula of Krk, allthough we had to break a few rules to get there. It was some kind of forest where camping was prohibited but there wasn't a soul down so there we drove the Villa onto the rocky, unpaved road into the darkness. We found a nice place next to the water and that night we made a fire and barbecued underneath the full moon, roasting sausages on sticks and trying out our new collection of groceries. We played some songs and fuelled the jam with whiskey and beer. An excellent night! The next morning we had a little dip in the water which was very refreshing and we drove back over the bridge, leaving the Krk insula and made our way towards Zadar. This is an ancient and historical city, full of ruins from the Roman Empire and a beautiful church made of white stone. After a small stroll around the city and some intentions to do busking, which we didn't in the end, we found another great spot next to the sea, recommended to us by some locals and there we set up camp. The cars that were parked there weren't empty. Inside, all kinds of private things were going on and you could see the moving silhouets behind the windows. The place was next to the water and the weather continued to be good, so we camped there for a few days, doing nothing whatsover, sitting in the sun, playing music and taking it easy. For a moment we nearly forgot about our folkloric quest and it felt like we were having an actual summer holiday. On one of the Zadar nights we went out to play in the center. We found a nice staircase where the music resonated beautifully onto the almost empty square. The pedestrians were quite surprised by this unexpected musical ambience and some of them stopped and listen attentively. After the session, a young man, who had been sitting around for a good while to listen, came to us and thanked us for the music. His name was Serdjen, a fellow musician and a student of philosophy and sociology. He had been triggered by our music and had followed the sounds down the streets until he found us. He told us he was very happy to find us playing there so spontaneously that night. We had a nice conversation about science, music, philosophy and spirituality and we kept talking for a couple of hours until it got a bit cold and we returned to the campsite.


After two days of hanging around, we knew we would have to move on and we left our beloved camping spot with garden by the sea and the salty pool. On our way to Split, we went to the natural park of Krka. It is made up of a huge system of waterfalls and creeks and we spent some time walking around, listening to raging water; the sounds of nature. After the park we conintued the road to Split, another city on the coast of Dalmatia. It is full of charming tiny streets and alleys with gorgeous arcs of marble, nice corners and little squares with cafés. We went for a some busking, made a few kunas and had a beer in a small bar. From there we found a cheap room where we slept that night and the next day, after a another busking session and not finding any folk musicians, we decided to move on to Dubrovnik. We had to pass the border with Bosnia Hercegovina to reach this southern point of Croatia and the douane thorougly examined the Villa before they let us go on.

We arrived in Dubrovnik at night, so we didn't see much of the city at first. We slept, again, next to the sea and the next morning went to the town for some sightseeing and a busking session. The old part of the town is some kind of fortress, with huge, thick walls. One could easily imagined this place used to be an important stronghold, armed with big cannons against some foreign invader. Now there was just a one cannon left, as some historical artefact. Next to the fortress, there is a cute little harbour with small boats. The city was very quiet; there weren't a lot of people on the streets except for a few herds of Chinese tourists and some locals wandering around. It was a beautiful day and we were enjoying the sun while playing on one of the main squares of the city. The few people that were there made some nice remarks about the music and we even sold a CD. Afterwards, we walked around a bit more, got some lunch and at dawn we decided to move on and leave Croatia and the sea behind us. Before that, we had to spended our last kunas, which we still had quite a few, so we fuelled up the Villa, bought some more groceries and we were ready to go.


At the border with Bosnia there was a problem. We didn't have our Green Card in the car. It is a document concerning international car insurance and required for countries outside the EU. This wasn't a problem so far and considering the smooth crossing to Romania, also outside the EU, a bit of a surprise. We were sent back to Dubrovnik and we had to think of a solution to this paper problem. We got a scan of the original thanks to Gijs's father and we copied it onto a paper. We went back to the border to try again but he border police still didn't wanted to let us pass, since our improvised paper wasn't green and he told us he would be abandoning his protocol accepting copied versions. We were persistent and assured him that it was the right paper. He asked us where we intended to go. We told him we would drive straight on to Romania and would only stay one day in Bosnia, only for passing trough. He changed his mind, reminded us to drive safely and slowly and let us in. Pfieeww... That was close. We knew then we had to solve this tiny paper problem before trying to pass the others borders, but for now, we could move on.


Goodbye Croatia and hello Bosnia Hercegovina.


By Folk Combo, Jan 16 2015 03:01PM

On how Folk Combo hopped between countries and capitals, swapping between coins and currencies and busked in extreme conditions.


Our first official concert of the Balkan Adventures was planned on the 27th of December in Budapest. We arrived to the capital of Hungary two days beforehand and had some time to explore the city, do some busking and prepare our performance. We got a whole dormitory for ourselves in the Goat hostel and made ourselves comfortable. We busked on several spots in Buda and in Pest and especially the spot next to the Citadella was great, allthough we didn't earn much up there. We enjoyed the view of the city and the smiles of the tourists while we slowly turned into two popsicles. Down in Pest, the commercial shopping streets turned out to be more profitable and we earned thousands of Hungarian florints. Unfortunately, when conversing them back to euros, the amount of money we were left with was much less impressive but it was sufficient to cover our expenses of hot chocolates and lunch between busking sessions, and to pay for the accomodation of the hostel. So... we couldn't complain.

We played a show in the Lampas bar, a cool music café/basement, ran by Daniel Nieland. Our folky tunes were (again) an island in the usual programme of jazz and blues but it went smoothly and we got a nice response from the audience. Afterwards, we slept one more night at the Goat Hostel and the next day we rewarded ourselves to a whole day of jacuzzi's and sauna's in the Széchenyi, one of the famous thermal bath houses of the city. We immersed ourselves into the hot water and bubbled for hours on end. After the baths we continued this standard of luxury and went out for dinner to try the traditional gastronomy: 'gulyás, ratatouille and nokedli' (nomnom!) Unfortunately, this extravagant lifestyle had to stop at one point and after spending our last florints, we were back in our beloved Villa. Fresh, fullfilled and happy after the the relaxing day at the pools and the excellent dinner.


The next day we went to Zagreb and for the first time after more than a month of travelling we were in the Balkans. The city was covered in snow and ice, a couple degrees minus zero and not very suited for playing music outdoors. But we put on a number of layers and went out with our instruments. We were kept warm with the hot wines of Maja Stanisic while playing our music and we earned some Croatian kunas. We slept in the Villa and the next day went to the music library to work on our folk research. We introduced ourselves as musicologists from Spain and the Netherlands and inquired if we could have a look at their collection of music and transcriptions. We found a beautiful compilation of music with eloborate descriptions, linking the music to the specific regions in the country. While David was scanning and ripping as much scores and CD's as he could in the University of Zagreb, Gijs was held as a bond for the borrowed materials by the librarians of the music department, since they were still a bit conspicuous of our intentions. That night we went out for busking again and got an enthousastic audience of youngsters who together form the Celtic Fantasy Dance Studio. Seeing them enjoy and dance the steps to the celtic tunes warmed our hearts and bodies and for a moment we didn't feel the cold biting our hands and faces. Their manager, the young and visionary Dominik, invited us for a drink and offered us to be our PR-agent in Croatia (We'll keep that in mind Dominik!).


On the 31st of December, we drove from Zagreb to Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia. For one day, we were back in euroland, where we could understand the prices without doing mental recalculations with the conversion rates of queer currencies (such a relief!). We went to play on the street and exchanged our bag of coins for paper notes, which would come in handy in the exchange offices of the countries yet to visit. Allthough we were blessed with a sunny day, the temperature was surpassing minus 10 degrees and we were really freezing out there; losing the feeling of our hands and fingers completely. After that first arctic busking session, we had a stroll around the beautiful city and Gijs ran into Laurine, a friend from the Netherlands who he hadn't seen for many years and who was visiting Ljubjana with her family and it was a very nice and coincidental rendez-vous. Such a small world! Later we went to find another spot to play and stumbled upon a very grumpy Slovenian accordeonist, who was playing traditional Slovenian music, which is very similar to Austrian folk music except they don't do the yodelling. David tried to take some photographs but the man became angry and turned his back towards us. We thought he didn't do a good job at promoting the Slovenian folklore with an attitude like that and we guess he must felt threatened by us, fellow musicians, also with a cool outfit, competing with his business. We played for a little while in another place but when the sun was going down it really became too cold and impossible to keep playing (minus 15!). We went for some hot wines to warm up and afterwards returned to the Villa. We left Slovenia and zigzagged up into the mountains back onto Croatian territory, looking forward to see the Adriatic sea, where we would conclude the year 2014. On the New Year's Eve. David made an exquisite dinner with a pumpkin that we had been carrying around since Romania, we had some beers and at 12 o'clock a lemonless gin tonic while we watched a beautiful show of fireworks from the boulevard of Opatije.



By Folk Combo, Jan 4 2015 04:57PM

On how Folk Combo took their first steps in the colossal Romania, discovered the Oas Country of Maramures, their people, music and traditions


We finally arrived in Romania. After a small stop in Satu Mare, where we exchanged our euros for lei, we drove on to Baia Mare, a small city in the north. We stayed a couple of days, visited the library in search of folk music books, roaming the bars and restaurants to find musicians and inquiring with the locals about their folklore. We were directed towards the Oas Country; a corner in the Maramures region where traditional forms of music-making and rural life had remained and people still live in folkloric ways.

We went to Breb, a village full of wooden cottages with beauteous handcrafted gateways. After driving trough the village, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the town where the road had stopped and nothing but stone and mud was left in front of us. We tried to reverse but the Villa was having a lot of trouble to move and it got stuck in the mud, badly. We tried to turning and twist the wheels, but everytime we pushed the gas we were only digging deeper into the muddy ground. After serveral attemps to free the Villa, using sticks and stones and pushing and pulling the car from all sides, it got dark and we gave up. We walked back to the village to look for help. A young man, called Florin, was willing to help us. He didn't speak any English but when we mimicked the situation with our hands he quickly got the point and mumbled "Fuck!". He took some iron cables from a barn and with his car we drove back to the Villa. Florin was not able to pull the Villa out of the mud and the situation seemed pretty hopeless. We would have to wait until the morning. Suddenly we heard voices and saw a light coming nearer and nearer. Florin started talking to the darkness and the next moment, two horses, accompanied by a couple of men arrived into the picture. Without any further introduction the horses were inmediatly placed in front of the Villa and the men connected the cables on to the carriage behind the horses. A moment later, the Villa was freed of its trap with one powerfull pull. Once the Villa was back on solid ground we stood there for a while, dazzled by the amazing scene that had taken place and not believing the conclusion to this adventure. We gave the men our last beers, which they drank eagerly, and aferwards said goodbye to Florin, the men and our four-legged saviors. We spended the night at the Babou Maramures, campsite ran by a Dutch couple: Evelien and Mathijs.


The next day we went to Hoteni, another small village, where we wanted to find a famous musician by the name of Ioan Pop. He and his Iza Grupul play traditional music from Maramures and he would be the perfect guy to show and teach us some tunes. But first we had to find him and since we had no adress whatsoever it was a bit unclear how to to proceed. We asked a man who was standing outside if he could point us in the right direction. He spoke English very well and told us he was aquainted with the musician we were looking for. He said that Ioan Pop and his group would be performing at the Brasana monastery the following day for a special television broadcast for Christmas. He advised us to stay at the local hotel, ran by the brother in law of Ioan. The Tepei family runs a beautiful hotel built up with the tradtional wooden decoration. They kindly offered us to park the Villa in their garden and use their living room and showers, which was great since we were still a bit dirty from playing in the mud. The day after, we drove to Brasana, to see Ioan Pop perform. The monastery turned out to be a huge religious complex of Orthodox Church. The place was filled with nuns, priests and children in tradtional clothing, all rounded up to present their music to the national tv in a precious scenario. At first, it seemed a solely religious event, but we soon found out that there would be a whole program of music: a children's choir, a choir of nuns and priests, and finally, after all the church music, traditional folk music. So we waited it out and recorded every single bit of music that was presented.Finally, at midnight, when everybody except the camera crew and us had left, Ioan pop and his Iza group arrived on the scene. We met Ioan and his wife after their performance and we got an invitation to come to their house in Hoteni the next morning. Together with Christi, his nephew whom we met at the hotel, we spended a whole sunday afternoon at Ioan Pop's house. He had a beauitiful place, full of traditional instruments: guitars, flutes, violins etc. Christi did the translating and we learned about the life of the man who had been a folk musician since he was 18 years old. He showed us the music of Maramures, sang us songs and explained how his life as a musician had developed; the years of communism, his tours in Europe and America and the role he had aquired as one of the last preservers of traditional Maramures music. It was a fascinating meeting and a very inspiring man.


That night we celebrated the conclusion of the first month of our trip with a huge dinner seasoned by folk music preformed by a saxo, a keyboard and a female voice at such a volume that we weren’t able to maintain a normal conversation. Back in Hoteni, we had a great night with the Tepei family; Christi and his brother were sharing more traditions, music, legends and jokes/sayings which alltogether create the clear identity of this genuine Romanian region: Maramures. We also had the chance to taste a homemade pálinka and to wear the traditional costumes as you can see in the previous post.

The next day we left Maramures via a tricky road trough the snowy mountains. We arrived in Cluj Napoca, a large student town in northern Transylvania. We met Bobby from the Old Shepherds pub, who got us drunk with pálinkas after playing a spontaneous session. After which we said goodbye to Bobby and even before deciding our next destination we were in the middle of the street playing again for an ethylic audience who decided to reward our music by inserting lei bills in our pockects, instruments or whatever hollow spot they could put in the money. Before we knew what was happening we were invited to dance and go crazy that night...

For Christmas's eve we gave a little concert in a place for the homeless, who attentively listened and applauded our music trip. We had our Christmas feast at a restaurant in town which we could afford by our profits from busking on the streets. On the first Christmas day we drove to Hungary via a beautiful road trough Transylvania which was, due to the many national roads and absence of highways, quite a time consuming undertaking. The days in Romania ended there, for now, but we will definitely go back soon.


See you later Romania!



By Folk Combo, Dec 19 2014 11:00PM

On how Folk Combo met the 'magistro de viola d'amore' and concluded their Czech chapter in Hodonin, where they finally found the traditional folk music of Moravia.


We slept one night in Brno, the capital of the southern region Moravia and the following day we went to Litovel, a small town in the center of the region. There lives a luthier who builds the illustrious 'viola d'amore'. David had been waiting for the chance to try this member of the string instrument family, since they are quite hard to find. So we put our search for folk music on a temporal standby and went to Litovel for this unique opportunity. We gave him a call and made an appointment to visit him. Later that day, we met the 'Magistro de Violine': Vratislav Hrubý. He showed us his home atelier, a place without all the dust and tools one might expect in a luthiers workshop. On the floor there were only a few wood scraps and on the table, made from the wing of a piano, lied his beatiful piece of craftmanship. The viola d’amore', a 14-strings instrument, has seven strings that are played with the bow and the other seven sympathetic strings only resonate by the vibration of the others. All these strings together emulate the space of a cathedral! David had his moment with the instrument (see pictures) and afterwards, when we told Vratislav about our journey to the Balkans, he insisted on letting us stay the night in his house and to have a shower and a bed. In return to his offer, we cooked him a traditional Folk Combo dinner and afterwards we had a small stroll around Litovel. We spent the rest of the night talking about Vratislav’s passion, which is living in the jungle in Peru. It was a good moment to talk about how the music reflects the lifestyle of people; Vratislav, a professional luthier, told us that neither music or instruments are needed in the jungle, because the jungle has music in itself. He showed us that it’s possible to be very good at something and humble at the same time. Here goes an example: http://www.caviana.com/


The next day, we said farewell to Vratislav and returned to our folkloric quest in search of traditional music from Moravia. We arrived in Hodonin, a small town where we would hope to find...something folky. We found a collection of songs in a bookshop, asked around in the tourist information and went to the library (great idea) to see if they would have some books of music there. A sweet old lady overheard our requests at the reception and told us that she knew somebody who might help us out. She introduced us to Miroslava, an English and Russian language teacher at the library and we exchanged numbers. She would give us the numbers of local musicians. We went to a small pub, had some dinner and tried some local beer. We had our instruments and felt like playing. We asked the bartender if we could and she said it would be no problem. So we started out, playing Irish style, from behind the table and our glasses of Christmas beer. Like in the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we were joined by a couple of drunk locals who bought us beer and plum brandies. The more songs we played the more plum brandies appeared on the table and within 20 minutes we went from completely sober to a severe state of drunkness. After that alcohol explosion we meandered back to our Villa and the next day woke up with our heads feeling like a piece of wood and our brains melted by the plum brandy.

After recovering from the hangover, we gave a call to Miroslava and we got the numbers of a couple of local musicians from the area. They didn't pick up and while we kept trying, we went to Petrov, a town in the wine area of Moravia where you can find typical wine cellars built like a small Hobbit village in the hills and beautiful houses next to the vineyards. While we were walking around the wine cellars, we received a call from one of the musicians we tried to call earlier: Martin Šiška, the cymbalon player of Olina. They would play in Hodonin that night. The band got ready to play and we got ready to absorb the hurricane of folk music that would last for more than 7 hours. We filmed and recorded as much as we could, but the batteries of our devices weren't able to outlast the stamina of these guys. It was truly incredible to witness these folk giants at work. They could play and sing for hours, possibly days of music, right out of their heads. The people who were there also knew all the songs and everybody sang and danced. One of the locals said: "we don't need a DJ, we have got these guys". We looked at each other, completely overwhelmed by the event taking place in front of our eyes and both knew that our search had not been in vain. This was the thing we have been looking for: authentic, powerfull, higly energetic music played by a traditional ensemble of cymbalon, violin, viola (bratsch), double bass and clarinet. Traditional songs were requested but they also implemented popular music and classical music in their show. This was, as Martin explained to us, a neccesary development to attend to some of the needs of particular audiences. They told us they have been playing together for 20 years, worked regular jobs during the week and in the weekend performed with their band, which they considered to be a hobby. The shows they give were almost always of similar lengths, ranging between 4 to 8 hours with a few breaks in between.They only needed a few drinks to keep the engine running and would probably never stop playing until the audience could not stand on their feet anymore. If you want to have a hint of what we are talking about, click here.


By Folk Combo, Dec 19 2014 05:58PM

On how Folk Combo arrived in the Czech Republic, celebrated the Szent Mikuláš tradition with the Papoucek family, met the Scottish fiddle master Alastair Edwards and did some busking in the majestic Prague


After crossing the Czech border Gijs recalled that he once visitited a village close to Prague with his high school 7 years ago. Because he didn't remember the name of the place, we asked for the neccesary information via Gijs's brother Koen. He found it and sended us the directions. About an hour north of Prague we left the highway and drove into the Czech countryside. The TomTom had some trouble finding the right place and it took us a little longer than expected, but eventually we found it... at 4 o'clock in the night. We slept in our Villa and the next morning we woke up in Nova Ves nad Nisou, a small village in the northern part of the historical region of Bohemia. There was no one on the streets and the town seemed completely empty, but suddenly a window opened. A man appeared and said something to us. We asked: "English, Deutsch?". He shook his head and said replied: "Czech" or "Rusky" (Russian). Uhmmm... tricky. The man invitited us in for "pivo, kafe?" (beer or coffee, we know that much!) and we made the first contact with a Czech local. His name was Dimitri and while we drank our coffee (he drank beer) we maintained a 'conversation' using hands, feet, facial expressions and some universal terms and signs that, alltogether, created a nice and spontaneous atmosphere. Everybody's humble effort to communicate was appreciated and no one really minded the language barrier that made it hard to formulate any questions or ideas. After the coffee we thanked Dimitri for his hospitality by playing a few of our songs.

We went about our way to find the pension Majak, in which Gijs had stayed during a Czech field-trip with his high-school. The pension was right around the corner and had remained exactly the same as Gijs remembered it. It is a beautiful wooden building with a little creek that has its spring in the surrounding Jizera mountains. We rang the bell and a young man opened the door. He spoke English very well and we asked if we could fill our water tank and if he knew any nice hiking trials in the area. Gijs also told about his memories of the high-school trip. The young man, who introduced himself as Honza, invited us in for a drink. We met his family, the Papouceks, who have been running the pension for nearly 4 generations: Alena and husband Jiri, their two sons Honza and Jerka, Alena's mother, Jerka's wife, their young daugther and their new baby. A true family business. We told them about the Folk Combo adventures and we got served lunch. Honza drawed us a map with possible hiking trials and replenished our water supply. To thank them, we played some of our folk songs. They must have really liked it because we were invited to stay the night and we wouldn't have to pay. That night we were served an amazing dinner cooked by Jiri, the chef of the Majak kitchen. With two big beers on the side we surely felt like two bohemian princes and we couldn't quite believe the twist in our fortune, sitting there in this Bohemian paradise. The second day, Alena told us that we could stay the whole week if we wanted because they didn't have any guests at the moment. She also asked us if we wanted to attend the annual Szent Mikuláš (St. Nicholas) celebration. They would take Jerka's daugther to a village closeby where Mikuláš and his companion Krampusz (a sort of mean elf or devil) would arrive on the 5th of December. She suggested that we could play music at this event. Enthusiastically we accepted her offer and felt it was a good way to pay back all the hospitality we received.

So the next day, we dressed up in our folky costumes and played for the children and their parents. Mikuláš and Krampusz (his evil companion) arrived and every child had to sing a song to receive a bag of candies. Luckily, there were only sweet children and nobody received the wooden spoon, the punishment of Krampusz for the misbehaving children. Later that night, when we came back from the Mikuláš event, we had a meeting with a good friend of the Papoucek familiy, Alastair Edwards. This Scotsman, who has been living in Czech for 18 years, is a music teacher and a master of the Celtic fiddle. Together we played the typical jigs and reels from Scotland and Ireland and he showed us many tricks and techniques that he learned from the local Scottish fiddlers when he was young. He played us a beautiful Scottish fiddle tune about an old boat and this recording you can find on our website along with other recordings of that evening (check it out!). Alastair also told us there was authentic Czech music to be found in the south of the country: Moravia. According to him, the people of Moravia still play and dance traditional music, drink homemade plum brandy and they are well known for their wine industry. If you want to read and listen more about Alastair, here is his website: www.volny.cz/alastair

After our pleasant stay in pension Majak we said goodbye to the Papouceks, thanking them again and again for all their kindness. If you want to enjoy the hospitality and gastronomy of the Papouceks, here is their website: http://pension-majak.cz/en/


After leaving Nova ves Nad Nisou we went to Prague and after we found a nice parking spot for our Villa (easier said than done in a city like Prague), we went out to play music on the streets. We had quite a succes and earned a lot of Czech Crowns. We rewarded ourselves to sleep two very confortable nights in a beautiful hostel in the old centre and the next day we did some more busking to fill our Folk Combo treasure box. After busking, we went to the Red Room café to attend the weekly open-mic. We played a couple of our songs and met many interesting local musicians who gave us a good time and appreciated our unusual contribution. Here you can see and read more about this unique bar in Prague.


The next day we left the Czech capital and went down south in search of authentic Czech folk music.