#4 In these, hot as hell days, some people from Skopje were lucky to refresh themselves with cold beer and some great music during the traditional Blues & Soul Festival in Kurshumli An between 4th-6th July. Fourth edition of the festival has proven the fact that the quality of music has been increasing year after year to the joy of numerous fans of blues and soul sounds.
Really, this year we have witnessed the quality transparency of blues and soul idiom that found its way to the hearts of dedicated fans. One could get a feeling of something interactive between performers and the audience – together they have managed to create an atmosphere to remember! All compliments to the Directorate for Culture and Arts – Skopje, who made it happen within the ranks of Skopje Summer, a long time established series of cultural events, to organise a feast for lovers of this kind of music, a first class musical happening. Artists which have performed gave their best, inspired by fans’ response and the ancient site of Kurshumli An, for three days they have spread the gospel of the blues, each of them with their own approach and style, creating universal music deeply heartfelt with creativity and inspiration.
First night we could check an exciting symbiosis of youth with classic of the blues through performances of #6Nick Dounoussis and his “Backbone” from Greece and the legend of Chicago blues Phil Guy. Blues fans had a rare opportunity to watch a new rising star, Nick Dounoussis whose performance left no doubts – this guy will go places! He simply gave few lessons to all other guitar wannabees in the audience with a blistering set of his own material and classic covers. Nick plays with soul and impeccable technic, combining Texas blues through Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughan with elementary parameters founded by people like Jimi hendrix and others. We had a feeling that Skopje is only a station on Nick’s way to stardom that is awaiting him. After such performance, Phil Guy’s gig was an icing on the cake! Buddy’s younger brother, whose sound still evokes that archaic Chicago blues of the 50’s, took us all to the past and reminded us on people he used to play with: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker and others. Fans could feel the times when this music was strickly connected with the black population and its electric reincarnation was a privilege of the urban sites of USA. Phil Guy took us to a journey through the past and gave a performance which set standards for the future!
#7 Second evening was split between Vasil Hadzimanov Band from Yugoslavia and top German band “Blues Company”. Hadzimanov’s band played some jazz fusion oriented rock with few Macedonian folk motiffs, stylistically diverse from the blues idiom, but the crowd loved it anyway, it went down well with younger audience.
Final proceedings of the night were real pleasure thanks to our old friend Todor Todorovic and his “Blues Company”. High quality of musicianship are this band’s trademark and this concert was no exception. Playing mostly original material plus few nice covers, this band proved once again, why is it considered among top European blues bands for more than two decades(!).
Festival’s culminated on the last night, an event which will not be forgotten by the lucky fans who were there that evening. Party started with Mr. Lucky and his “Sen-Sa-Shun Band”, young band from Italy which touched all bases of the idiom: white boy’s blues of Eric Clapton and Peter Green and blues legends o B.B King, Jimi Hendrix, Guitar Slim and Albert King. Guitarist Luciano Gherghetta stood out as a blues hopeful whose time is coming.
Honour to close the Festival was in the good hands of #5 Michael Hill’s Blues Mob, an incredible band from New York which gave a performance to remember! Definitely, Michael Hill was the star of the festival and he proved that so superior, we had a feeling that the stage was literally smoking! Directly from the late flight, Michael took the stage and the rest is talk of the town! His two hour program had encompased different styles characteristic for New York scene, mixing together hip-hop, soul, rap, classic funk of “Stax” era, subtlety of the “Motown” sound and the rock explosion through classy material from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, all put together through classic blues elements. Impeccable performance by the whole band caused Todor Todorovic to comment to Michael afterwards:” I wouldn’t dream to get on stage after you!” It was as simple as that – Michael and the boys set new standards for blues in Skopje. Michael Hill is one of the chosen bluesmen who will take the blues to new Millenium and we all hope the new editions of Blues & Soul Festival in Skopje will be on such high level as this one was!