Time Bandits into the frame - July 09
Entering Dad's painting
Splendour and mystery of Dubrovnik
Palms and harbour of the citadel
Reka of the Djabe team in Dubrovnik
Feri, Aron and Steve - Dubrovnik gig
Breaking bread in the Slovenian countryside
About to score my goal!
Slovenia in the mist
Gig in Slovenj Gradec
Steve and Djabe in Croatia, Slovenia and Austria
Many moons ago in the early '60s Dad painted an intriguing picture entitled Rooftops of Dubrovnik. I remember the scene as one of his first efforts to grace the family walls. At my young age it seemed to be one of the most distant exotic places on Earth. I little dreamed that I would ever be in that picture...
Last week I joined the Djabe Magical Magyar Tour, once more for a week of blower's heaven. The party gathered in Budapest under sweltering skies for a day’s journey from Hungary into Croatia. We passed through mountains and hugged coastal roads where possible, briefly stopping in the beautiful old port of Zadek, for a cordon bleu meal shared with a stray cat or two.
We rolled into our eventual destination at darkest 3am, but awoke in the morning to a fantastic sea view, barren mountains and wooded islands. Across an ancient drawbridge and through several medieval archways lay the town itself, with its many tiny alleyways and ornate buildings. The pride of the Adriatic past on display in 3D, Dubrovnik was just as if Dad's painting had come to life. The terracotta tiled rooftops of the impressive old walled citadel shone in the sunlit view from the battlements where the event took place.
The show went well, Garbor Vermes standing in seamlessly for Tamas Barabas on bass under a starry night as the candlelit turrets looked at a distance as if no time had passed since Richard the Lionheart had stopped over on his way to the Crusades for the odd roast haunch of the equivalent of a double Mac and fries. "Step on it Mac will ya... I've got Heathens to convert..."
Next day the Djabe adventure continued with a hairy journey up the unbelievable Croatian coast, with its incredibly diverse terrain... a moated island of fir trees amidst greenery that looked as if it was afloat itself, like some of C. S. Lewis' descriptions of Perelandra, Silent Planets and science fiction born of unlikely Eco climates that made it hard to tell what was land, what was sea, what was river... and why can't we stop? Because we’ve got another gig to do!
Another long day's travel, but against the backdrop of such blindingly beautiful scenery we scarcely noticed it was 1.30am as we checked into an old Slovenian farmhouse under the baleful stare of a huge Hound of the Baskervilles lookalike. The place was reminiscent of a cottage from Eastern European folklore, with its low beams, creaky doors and crucifixes. Hammer Horror meets Castle Dracula country by night... by day a Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house meets Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks obviously grew up and became our extremely attentive hostess Helena, who seemed to conjure huge home-grown meals around a long wooden table, with hound in tow, now clearly a pussycat under the surface!
Djabe doesn't just comprise fabulous musicians, Ferenc (Feri) is not only a gifted violinist and trumpeter, but is also an Olympic Kendo fiend. He recommended some practise with one of his wooden swords for a frozen shoulder problem I've got... rounded off with a game of football. For the first time in fifty years I scored a goal. Perhaps it was the only goal I’ve ever scored! I wonder if Chelsea would be interested in my new found skill?
Whilst Dubrovnik brought back to life a heroic past of galleons, merchant adventurers and Knights Templar, this simple place in the Slovenian countryside really was a glimpse of an ideal childhood Eden wrapped in an evergreen cloak of cosy magic. A slower speed with a forty year old jukebox that at first glance looked like it couldn’t possibly work, programmed to take only old defunct Yugoslavian currency. Then suddenly, as if we were catapulted into a Dr. Who episode where time is elastic, the beast cranked into life and burst forth in full cry with the sound of Abba!
The band's outdoor show took place in Slovenj Gradec, with the ensemble turning in an extraordinary performance full of atmosphere and energy, aided by all that Health and Efficiency country air. In the glow of the setting sun, Feri's haunting violin floated over the town whilst Szilard's drums sounded incredible, ricocheting around the surrounding stone arches.
About 6am the following morning I was awoken by a huge thunder clap. Torrential rain accompanied us as we aquaplaned through Alpine Austria to Graz, the scene of the next show. Here was another impressive old city, with ancient Roman walls and medieval brick venue, adapted to the requirements of the Graz Jazz Festival. This was for me the best of the three gigs. My fingers seemed to fly whilst my guitar gave me back more than I asked from her. In short, I had a visit. The spirit who took over was the kind of guitarist I always wanted to be... full of surprises, just like the great team of Attila Egerhazi's, Djabe, as it took the battlements by storm and ingenuity at so many of these shows, where East meets West.
Attila, Feri, Zolti, Aron, Szilard and Garbor, with the ever attentive Réka, all of us shortly about to gig in Italy salute you!
20th July 2009