Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Hills Are Alive...

Over the weekend in Novi Sad we finally had a chance to listen to some Serbian folk music. We first encountered it in the restaurant of our hotel. We went down for dinner and the band - one bass, one violin, one accordion, and two guitars - was just finishing their card game so they could start the next set. As they were picking up their instruments, two new patrons entered the restaurant, both male, and if we had been in New Jersey, I would have guessed they were related to the Sopranos. Black t-shirts, gold necklaces, and, as Dan said, "scraggly beards that just scream button man." They sat down, ordered some drinks, and beckoned the musicians over to their table.

For the next hour, the band encircled the table and played song after song for the two men. The guys would stop the music mid-song to demand a different one, sing along, close their eyes, and wave their hands in the air. It was clearly an emotional evening, and an impressive performance by both groups. I described it all to Dan, as he was unfortunately seated with his back to the "dinner theater." When we left, the men hadn't broken into tears, but I'm sure it was just a matter of adequate alcohol consumption.

From there, we met up with some friends to go to a konoba bar to listen to another band. I love when you have a local to guide you to the places you would never find on your own (so thank you Kristina & Peter). The bar is basically three rooms in a basement - it's only open three nights a week starting at ten, and people go just for the music. Peter said that particular bar is where he and his friends go to get drunk and sing when one of them breaks up with a girlfriend. The songs are all about lost love and drinking, and Kristina would translate particularly stirring passages for us. If you have a message for someone, you apparently call them from the bar and hold up the phone so they can listen to the appropriate song. We got there early (10:30) to reserve seats. The band was already going, and as the night progressed the bar filled beyond capacity. We stayed for hours listing to music and drinking wine.

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