Festival brings Balkans culture to Brussels

Martin Banks

The Balkan Trafik Festival is back in the heart of Brussels!

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The Ukrainian rap group that won Eurovision is among the headline acts performing at this week’s Balkan Trafik! jamboree in Brussels.

Kalush Orchestra, which performs hip-hop music in the Ukrainian language, won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2022, scoring the highest number of televote points in the history of the competition.

The band, which topped the EU-wide TV spectacular with the catchy “Stefania”, is among scores of acts taking part in what is probably Brussels’ funkiest of parties.

It is the 18th edition of Balkan Trafik!, described as a “celebration of music from southeastern Europe in all its diversity.”

The event embraces everything from folk and brass to jazz, hip-hop, electro, and fusion.

Other highlights are the No Smoking Orchestra, the Amsterdam Klezmer Band, and Belgian rock singer Daan.

The three-day event, which starts on Thursday (25 April) and concludes on Saturday, takes place on the city’s Place De Brouckère. This year it received the “Culture Label” from the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union which means the event is sponsored by the Belgian EU Presidency.

Balkan Trafik! carries the presidency logo and appears on the presidency website. In addition, a social event on 29 April hosted by Belgian government Minister Hadja Lahbib will bring together the 27 ministers of European affairs.

The festival itself seeks to showcase the cultural diversity of the Balkans through a variety of musical genres.

Artists confirmed for this edition include Manu Chao who is said to “weave links between cultures through his music and his social commitment” and the Unza Unza Orchestra which will join forces with the Amsterdam Klezmer Band and Daan for a unique creation.

The Kalush Orchestra, also taking the stage, is said to symbolize the dynamic youth of the Ukrainian music scene with a “unique fusion of ethnic music elements with modern sound production, hip-hop dances and rap lyrics in Ukrainian.”

Other invitees are The Barcelona Gipsy Balkan Orchestra who will present a “new wave of traditional music which takes spectators on a captivating journey through the rhythms of the Balkans.”

Zarina Prvasevda, an emerging artist from Macedonia, will be accompanied by her ensemble, while Koza Mostra, a gypsy-punk rocker from Greece, will entertain guests with a “bold” fusion of rock, ska, metal and punk.

Also appearing is Sntoumos, a talented trumpeter of Belgian and Greek origins who fuses Balkan melodies with hip-hop, funk, and electro influences, and Belgian clarinetist Aurélie Charneux who fuses Balkan and klezmer music.

Music Connects, a project that brings together the youth of the Mitrovica Rock School (Kosovo), the Roma Rock School (Macedonia), and the Fontys Rockacademie (Netherlands) will also participate.

The Serbian duo Alice in Wonderland promises to offer a vibrant and energetic performance, mixing the sounds of the Balkans with body music and percussion. It will also lead body percussion workshops during the festival.

Anatolian Group Harmony, one of the largest ensembles of the Turkish community in Brussels made up of some 35 artists (Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Albanian, and Macedonian), also perform with Ottoman accents, reflecting the diversity and cultural richness of Brussels.

Beyond all the fab music, the Balkan Trafik Festival! offers an immersion in Balkan culture with the Balkan Village where festival-goers will be able to enjoy food trucks with Balkan flavors, a regional wine bar, dance workshops, photo and comic exhibitions, as well as meetings with local communities.

Festival producer and director Nicolas Wieërs said, “This year the Balkan Trafik! festival is preparing to shine in the spotlight of the European cultural scene in a truly exceptional way. On April 25, 26, and 27 we will take over the center of Brussels, our Belgian and European capital, for three days of intercultural celebration, in the image of our city.”

This is said to be the only open-air festival in the heart of Brussels and the 17 previous editions attracted an average of 6,000 festival-goers each year.

It is said to be a unique festival in Europe, which creates links between the countries of South-Eastern Europe and Brussels.

Seven murals created by Balkan artists already exist in the center of Brussels and the festival will also invite graffiti artists from the Balkans to express themselves on the walls of the city.

Further info: https://www.balkantrafik.com/

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.