Hello hello! It’s been exactly one year since the last Raggablog. We’ve been busy making our new album, Gatekeeper, but now Raggalution is back on the road, doing our traditional Balkan tour!
Right now we’re driving towards the Kosovo/Serbia border and hoping they’ll let us through. But first thing’s first.
We started our tour in Novi Sad, where we played in the newly opened Suburbia squat. Raggalution and squats are like gin and tonic – practically made for each other, but the hangover is brutal. It took us 12 hours to get from Kranj to Novi Sad… because we’re a bunch of unorganized fools. And also because Pavel has a new puppy, and it was just too cute to handle. But we got there well in time, since the dudes at Suburbia told us to wait till after midnight to start playing. We weren’t exactly happy about that, but whatcha gonna do. It turned out to be the right choice, cause people only started arriving after midnight. We started playing at 2am, to a small but awesome crowd. Even though we were a little fucked up from the road and the waiting, the gig was awesome and we had a great time hanging out with the locals afterwards. The only problem is, we had to start for Skopje at 10am to get there in time. So after about 4 hours of sleep we got up and hit the road.
Crossing the Macedonian border is always an adventure. This year we finally decided to get all our papers in order for the tour, so the border crossings have been smooth as a baby’s bottom. That don’t mean it wasn’t eventful though! Being a reggae band (and looking like one), we always get some ganja comments at borders. Macedonian border guards especially enjoy fooling around a little. After three trips through the country, we’ve come to expect and look forward to their shenanigans. This time, the dude asked us if we have any rolled-up joints ready and waiting. Obviously, we said no and that we never take anything with us. To this the guy replied “yes, I also leave mine at home when I’m working.” Then he pulled out his phone and started showing us pictures of ganja, saying “look, this is what I’ve got at home.” We had a nice conversation for a few minutes, after which he warned us to be careful because of increased police presence in Skopje and bid us adieu.
We also asked our new friend about the situation in Macedonia, regarding recent frictions, since there’s been some aggression and the media say it’s pretty bad. He told us not to trust our media, that the country is stable and everything is OK. The people just got a little fed up with the politicians kissing the EU’s ass and gave them a good whooping.
Shortly after the border, we stopped at a gas station for some ice cream. There were some strange deja-vu vibez in the air, until we realised that we stop at this exact same gas station every year and buy ice cream. Not gas, not coffee, just ice cream. It’s weird. Cause it’s not like we eat ice cream all the time when we’re on tour. Just this specific gas station seems to bring out the urge. So we decided that it’s time to proclaim this a Raggalution tradition! Just hoping the station doesn’t close in the next few years. Cause then we’ll have to give up the ice cream.
The venue in Skopje was really cool, but it was an outdoor location. Naturally, it started to rain real bad during our soundcheck. No problem, since there was a roof over the stage. Until the roof started to leak right over my keyboard. What a bitch! My beautiful Nord got a nice shower, so now it’s cleaner than ever. The down side is that it went a little crazy when I wiped it off and turned it back on. Guess it wanted a proper spa treatment, so our awesome roadie Jagoda and I took it to the van to dry it off using the air conditioning fans. The plan worked, the keyboard is fine, and the show was OK. Unfortunately, we had a really bad turnout, so we really can’t say that it was anything more than OK. However, we really appreciate the crew in Skopje for organizing it for us. We don’t take these opportunities for granted!
We started playing at midnight and went to the hostel soon after, cause we had to start at 9am the next day in order to get to Prizren in time. So much driving, so little sleep.
After two really late shows and early morning starts, we were looking forward to playing a very early show in Prizren and finally getting some rest. We got there around noon, with the show planned to start at 2pm. The weather was a little shitty, however, and we had to wait a while for the rain to pass. So we drank a coffee and some beers, chillaxed with the Prizren crowd and watched people riding down the river. We were playing at Bunar Fest, which is an annual festival where people ride down the river on various floats (combined with events in town – like our show). The stage was in a really beautiful location between the mosque and the river, there were plenty of people, and the energy was awesome.
The show was great. There was a big crowd when we started playing, and even though it thinned out a bit, the people that stayed were really into it. Our hypothesis was that we were too alter for some, so they left and the ones that stayed were the more alternative crowd. Later our local friends told us that it was actually just lunch time. In Kosovo, where family and tradition are very important, Sunday lunch at 3pm is a big deal, and it’s not something you miss for a concert. So now we’re even more honoured that so many people stayed till the end of our show. Make no mistake – when I say that some people left, that doesn’t mean there was a bad turnout at the end.
The thing that makes Kosovo so different from what we’re used to is that there’s just so many people. Prizren is incredibly alive. The entire city is vibrant with the energy of the myriad of people walking the streets at all times. And most of them are really friendly! A normal Sunday there looks like a festival in Slovenia.
In the middle of our show, right when Leon plays his epic trumpet part in Brainstorming Alchemist, the skies opened up, the clouds parted and beautiful sunlight streamed across the stage. It was epic. After that, nothing could bring us down. The show was incredibly fun, and the people really seemed to enjoy our music.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out with our friends in Prizren, having some beers and enjoying the company. Special shout out to our friend Alban, who organized our show there. It is an honour and privilege to take our music to such far-away places.
Next up: playing in Niš for the first time ever! Stay tuned to our FB page for the next Raggablog.
UPDATE: I was going to post this when we got to Niš, but we didn’t get through the Kosovo/Serbia border and ended up driving all day. Ay, caramba! That’s why this post is a day late. Read about it all in the next Raggablog ?