In the footsteps of Attila and Ghengis - August 10
Steve with Attila
Statue of Vladimir Visotsky
Steve with guides, Helen and Tatyana
Take Five subterranean venue, Budapest
Ferenc and Steve, Pecs
It's been a wild ten days exploring new territory in Eastern Europe with Hungarian band Djabe.
After a night's stop-over at Attila Egerhazi's house in Budapest, we headed for Kaliningrad - my first glimpse of Russia. It's a beautiful city and the festival was held in a leafy park. The site is overlooked by a statue of a popular guitarist, Vladimir Visotsky, who sadly died young in 1980. The jam packed music festival was jumping and it was great to finally connect with the Russian fans, who were incredibly welcoming. It's strange to think that my music was once officially considered to be subversive there, but as my Hungarian friend Peter Pallai once said this made it sound all the sweeter. Special thanks to Helen and Tatyana, our bubbly translators and guides.
Next stop Budapest for the Take Five club, an exotic cave of a venue. The sound happened to be excellent. My guitar took off in my hands and surprised even me as it purred and growled with an intensity that you can never completely predict. The band was very much on form in front of their home crowd where all the high risk moments we went for came off. "Play magic fingers..." as my old pal Ian Mosely used to say - sometimes you feel you just switch on the ignition and the car drives itself - the spontaneous moments I absolutely live for...
Next day - historic Debrecen, second largest city in Hungary and Attila's home town. As we walked through a spacious street with fountains I was almost run over by one of those silent trams that crept up from behind, quieter than a bicycle but lethal for the unwary tourist! The gig was in the courtyard of a municipal building in front of a crowd whose ages ranged from three months to the elderly.
The final Hungarian gig was in another lovely old town, Pecs, in a cross between a circus tent and a rodeo. If John Wayne had walked in any moment I wouldn't have been the least bit surprised. At Pecs Djabe played the balls off their own material and mine. After the show we shot back to Budapest for three hours shut eye before flying from Vienna to Sophia, capital of Bulgaria. We then headed deep into the Bulgarian mountains, a rugged region the ancients knew as Thrace, the land of Orpheus. The terrain was dramatic and beautiful and I could see how it would have inspired that extraordinary myth which captured my imagination enough to create a whole album around the theme.
The crowd at the Bankso festival in Bulgaria seemed to know me even though this was my first visit. I heard some great music there, in particular an Egyptian band called Eftekasat, who incorporated a fantastic wooden wind instrument similar to the Armenian duduk into their palate of colours. It would be great to be part of that "Ransomed band in Heaven" one day...
The following day our journey took us through Macedonia, an equally wild area where Alexander the Great was born, and then on to Nics in Serbia. Here in front of a crowd of about 7,000 we played at a festival held within the walls of an old fortress. Our last gig the following day was also in Serbia, just outside its capital Belgrade. Again the music took off and I felt the spirit had been with us all along. Immediately after the show Djabe trumpeter Aron with team member Eva kindly drove Jo and me through the night all the way back to Budapest, where we had to catch an early morning flight back to the UK!
This was indeed an extraordinary experience - it's always an adventure with Djabe. Deepest thanks to Attila, his wife Dora and to all the Djabe team for all their kindness, friendship and inspiration.
Steve with Djabe, Debrecen
Steve in Pecs
Relaxing near Belgrade, Serbia
Rainbow and waterfall in Bankso, Bulgaria
Bankso and mountains, Bulgaria