Balkans, second time around

And so the summer came, and so the summer almost left
and I got thinking- “well, I still haven’t done anything special this summer..”

So with the speed of light… or rather sound, or whatever… I made some calls, packed my bags, my racks, and my beloved mobile studio van, and off we were- to the western balkans!

First stop- Albania- what a special place this is, with a language and a culture all its own, as if separated from the rest of the balkans by an historical wall of mountains. Beautiful roads, towns, and rivers, and some of the nicest people I’ve met in Europe (it’s still hard to compete with the middle east and Africa on the niceness scale). I was fortunate to come across Almus Music’s Stiljan, who took me around Tirana, and also introduced me to Andy Shkoza- a legendary pop and folk singer in Albania, well known and easily recognized in the street (nothing beats a producer’s feeling of hanging around a celeb). We even recorded some sketches together (using the rack and one of the great Hotel Prestige’s quiet conference rooms)- of Andy’s originals and some folk music as well. All in all, Albania is definitely one destination I would like to return to.

Next up (also physically, as the trip was Athens to Split- South to North), was Montenegro- the land of dark mountains, blue rivers, and extremely tall girls.. This is probably the most european of the balkans (also counting Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo- which we worked at a few years ago)- Everything is clean, tidy, well signed, and even- in Euro! and the fact that the average male hight is about 1.90 m, did not deter me from conquering the local music scene- well, whatever is left of it… actually, montenegro’s music scene as it seems, is quite small (even for a country of less than one million citizens), but I did get to visit one of its veteran studios- Adrenaline in Podgorica, and one of its tallest sound engineers (the tallest one I’ve encountered for sure)- the relaxed and hospitable Bobo.
After an extremely beautiful drive from Podgorica north to the border (through Pluzine and the inspiring Tara river and damm) I crossed over to Bosnia and Herzgovina- and as it felt, also leaped back twenty years in time.. Bosnia is very laid back, awesomely gorgeous, and very welcoming. In sarajevo I met some great musicians, and was even invited to a Bosnian wedding on the river, where my friend Haris Abdagic and his fabulous band “Balkaneros” were wooing the crowd. I also met with producer/entrepreneur Mirza Tahirovic, of Chelia studios, who introduced me to the crazy world of international film post-production (remember this guy, he will be doing Hollywood features within a few years..). At the sarajevo music academy, I was also lucky enough to come across a marvelous percussionist- Edo Golubic (originally from Croatia)- a wonderfully talented multi-instrumentalist whom I heard practicing a modern marimba piece and found myself sitting and listening in the hallway for about thirty minutes.. A great lad, that I will definitely like to work with in the future (surprisingly he is also an expert on indonesian gamelan music, and really made me want to start working in eastern asia as well.. you never know).

Sarajevo was great, but I had to catch my ferry, so early sunday morning I left for the Croatian border, on a long drive to Split. Unfortunately, because Bosnia was so nice, I did not leave off enough time for musical purposes in Croatia, but the drive along the A1 itself, was so mesmerizing, that it alone, already made me want to return here for some recordings.

Now it’s been two days of long ferries back to greece, but after six countries, around 2,000 KM, and many musical encounters and opportunities, I am finally prepared for summer to end.

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