The Princeton Traditional Music Festival is delighted to have Orkestar Šlivovica performing this year, 15-17 August. Orkestar Šlivovica plays the music of Balkan Roma (“Gypsy”) wedding bands. These bands are the heart of any celebration in that part of the world. Rika Ruebsaat, Music Festival organizer, describes how this works:
“We’ve been to several parties hosted by Orkestar Šlivovica. At the beginning of the party people are milling around and socializing. Suddenly music is heard from outside, getting gradually louder – it’s Orkestar Šlivovica making its way into the hall. They burst loudly into the room with everyone cheering, clapping or dancing. They play their way to the stage and the room erupts with joy. There are always a large group of Serbians at these parties who know exactly how to dance to this music. They form long lines and snake their way around the room doing their fancy footwork. Before the party begins some Balkan dances have been taught so that novice non-Serbians can join in. The line of dancers gets longer as more and more people join in. Others do free-form dancing in the spaces between the lines of dancers. There are people of all ages from children to dread-locked youths gyrating around to well-dressed seniors carefully and gracefully ‘stepping Serbian’.”
Oliver Schneider, Orkestar Šlivovica’s bandleader, describes the background: “Balkan countries are famous for their elaborate weddings with live music. Throughout Serbia this music is regarded as a strong part of national identity, and is performed at many other occasions as well such as festivals, civic events, house-warmings, and any other important moment in people’s lives. The music tells stories of joy and happiness as well as deep sorrow and longing. Instrumentation includes trumpets, powerful driving rhythms of low and mid-brass; the eastern double-headed drum; and beautiful ornamentation on saxophone, clarinet or accordion and powerful vocals. It is most often performed by Roma (“Gypsy”) musicians. Tunes vary from ballads that reveal the eastern influences of the Ottoman Empire, to folk, pop, or even jazz-inspired interpretation with full Balkan brass orchestration, depending on the needs of the occasion. The Guca festival in central Serbia draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to listen as twenty competing bands vie for the titles of best trumpet and best orchestra, while dozens more perform on the street and in temporary restaurants for tips.
While Europe and USA are being swept up in the Balkan Brass band craze, Vancouver’s Orkestar Šlivovica is eager to introduce this beautiful musical tradition to British Columbians.”
Orkestar Šlivovica is just one of the groups who will be participating in this year’s Traditional Music Festival, which begins on the town square on Friday 15 August at 6:15 pm. Then there is music from 10 am until 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday right in downtown Princeton. The best thing about it is that it’s free – no admission is charged. It is run entirely by volunteers including the musicians. To find out more, visit the Festival’s website at www.princetontraditional.org.