“So,” Zlatko asks, “what kind of music do you listen to?” “Oh, you know, a little bit of everything,” I respond. Zlatko doesn’t buy it. “A little bit of everything, like stuff you would hear on the radio?” Knowing that the YCC sponsors a number of local alternative bands and intending to earn some suck up points, I answer, “Well, some older rock, like the Rolling Stones, and some alternative.” Zlatko takes the bait. “Alternative? Give me an example.” “The White Stripes.” I am, of course, trying to hide the fact that I was listening to Genesis on my iPod earlier that morning. “Commercial music, then?” Zlatko asks. It’s too late. I’m lame, and Zlatko can tell that I listen to Phil Collins.
The topic of music always seems to pop up in conversation, especially now that we’re planning Bitola Open City, a citywide music festival held every August to showcase young talent from the Balkans. Demo tapes of potential performers are constantly floating from desk to desk. It’s not a bad day at the office when the music of Serbian drummers blasts through the halls.
Last week the office was also buzzing with the news that one of our bands was asked to open for a British band, Placebo, in Thessaloniki. This was the big break that this group had been waiting for. Unfortunately for them, politics stepped in the way.
If you ask most Bitolans what relations are like with Greece, they’ll likely respond that things are fine on an individual level. Bitola is only 20 km from the border, and some people in the area have family members on the other side. As we all know, borders are imperfect.
Things are slightly different, however, on an official level. Visas to visit Greece are difficult for Macedonians to acquire, and most young people here have never set foot in Thessaloniki, even though a bus ride from Bitola to Thessaloniki is shorter than one to Skopje. When asked by the YCC staff if I planned to do any traveling while I was over here, I mentioned that I wanted to visit Greece. They said they would drive me to the border and wave as I crossed.
Our band received notice that they were to perform in Greece a mere 48 hours before the concert. We all knew that the chances of obtaining visas that quickly were slim. On top of that, one of the band members didn’t have a passport, which meant that they would need a miracle if they were to cross the border. The Greek concert promoter issued the coup de grâce when he informed the YCC office that our band couldn’t perform unless he could locate a suitable Greek band to play after our Macedonian band.
It just seems so silly when nationalist feelings or controversies over a name come in the way of dreams. In this age of building walls and the politics of Tom Tancredo, it would be wise if we all took a moment to reflect on what walls actually do: they keep people out.
Posted By Katie Wroblewski (Macedonia)
Posted Jun 25th, 2014