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OFFest, Skopje, Macedonia, June 1-6, 2013

Nenad Georgievski By

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All of the individual elements of the band seemed skillfully combined in order to create something that is at the same time traditional and adventurously novel. After a brief intermission, the ensemble turned to pieces in which the group showed its improvisational prowess further on tunes such as "Lola's Lullaby," "Boy Meets Girl/Monsoon/Granaina," "Kanya," "Buleria," "Traveller" and "Jog (Chasing Shadows!)."

It was obvious that two worlds came together that night at the Universal Hall in Skopje, with many climaxes that delighted the people in attendance. It was one of those performances where one was not aware of time passing by while being sucked into the moment of brilliance. It was utterly brilliant with the musicians putting absolutely everything into compositions written to the highest levels of melodic and rhythmic ingenuity.

Day Two: Bioscopia and Taksim Trio

For the second evening the festival moved from the Universal Hall to the smaller MOB and it hosted two stylistically opposed bands. The band Bioscopia, consisting of composer Goran Trajkovski and Baklava's singer Elena Hristiova, and supported by a small group of musicians on strings, guitar and bass/ sampler. Naturally, because of the project's nature, it evoked comparisons with stylistically similar and better known group Dead can Dance.

Trajkovski, the lead singer of the now disbanded but still popular band Anastasia, has been doing a string of one-off musical projects ever since, but mostly has been active as a composer of theatre music. As a project, Bioscopia features Macedonian folk songs of different backgrounds, but because of the mournful moods prevailing, all of them sound like laments that were given a different cinematic glow.

Trajkovski's taste for electronic music of varying kinds here dealt with fragments, which were looped for the purpose of creating a tapestry of sounds and beats, and with the help of the players it created a hypnotic and darkish aesthetic on which Hristova's vocals floated. Both on the record and live, this project better suits Hristova's vocals than her own band Baklava. Evocative by nature, the prevailing tranquil and foreboding moods often sounded like a dark forest or a windswept plane.

But the songs' moods and tempos didn't seem to change and the overall feeling was monotonous, repetitive, flat and barren—after awhile what had began as interesting and variously approached sound sculptures, just seemed like a one long song that went on and on without even noticing that a new song had even started. The same project had a different dynamic and impact when it was first premiered live during the closing ceremony for MOT (The Youth Open Theatre) at MKC in 2012.



Taksim Trio consists of truly some of the greatest Turkish musicians whose reputation looms large far from their native country. The music was in total contrast to the first concert of the night. With just clarinet, baglam and canoun, these three virtuosos were a constant source of wonderment. Taksim is the Turkish word for improvisation and improvising they did. All of them were scarily virtuosic with one flashy solo after another, and the sparkling interplay between them was almost telepathic.

The band has no leader in a classical sense and that is where its beauty lies—these are three equally accomplished musicians and writers with their own contrasting and equally complimentary voices where everybody contributes to the realization of the whole. It was really a treat to see musicians so self assured of their abilities and with no hesitation to show that their reputation was no vanity.

The musicians had no problem with connecting with the audience in attendance either musically or verbally. In the crowded hall there were people either from the Turkish embassy or the Turkish minority from the neighborhood, and the musicians were addressing the people in Turkish. Taksim is also the name of the square in Istanbul, Turkey, which is also the centre of the current major riots that have been happening there, and by the middle of the concert they had brought a transparent message of "Please support us."

This concert not only was a premiere of the band but it was also a premiere to the long awaited second album Taksim Trio 2 (Dokuz Sekiz Müzik, 2013). The simultaneously feverish and sublime interactions of the performers clearly cemented their reputation as a hot live band. Taksim Trio was mercilessly excellent all throughout. Definitely another highlight.

Day Three: Brina

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