Growing up in Illinois I was exposed to quite a lot of trumpet sounds as a child. My parents loved jazz, and that was my vision of what trumpets do, and sound like. What they are meant for. Last summer my Eastern European travels opened a whole new world of sounds and music coming from brass instruments, played like I’ve never heard them before. Still love jazz, but I’ve also grown to love that new, exotic sound from The Balkans. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful nature, and hospitable people.
My adventure with a trumpet soundtrack began on a train to Belgrade, Serbia, last summer. I was still thinking about what I would like to see in this country, when I overheard some Austrians talking about a trumpet festival they were going to visit, in some small rural village in Western Serbia. At first, I was not impressed by the thought, what kind of musical fun could you expect in a small village. But as they continued to expand the idea, they “sold” it to me, and I joined them.
We started for the festival the next morning, after resting up in little Belgrade hostel. The venue of The Guca Trumpet Festival was about a three-hour bus ride from the capital city of Belgrade, in the Dragacevo region, near the city of Cacak. Let me tell you guys, you never saw a state capital so close to beautiful nature. A few miles out and forests were around us, then foothills with wide fields of corn and wheat. And then finally it got rugged, with the imposing Ovcar-Kablar Gorge, fifteen miles of winding road, with the river two thousand feet down, and untouched nature with just the beautiful thirty monasteries to welcome you.
But where we were going it was not about monasteries, it’s was about fun and music. Coming into the village of Dragacevo, we could barely see the monument to the trumpet player in the center, from the tens of thousands of visitors crowding the every inch of the place. Stepping off the bus a trumpet band had already spotted us and the party was on. The sound was intense, spontaneous, free, like jazz but nothing like it. We got lost in the mad happiness of it all.
After hours of roaming through the crowd and different stages where countless bands were playing, we settled in for some local food and cheap beer, which tasted like the best German brew.
Later that night it was the closing of the festival and some new Serbian friends got us backstage passes to the main event, the proclaiming of the festival winner. We were right up there with the champion band enjoying the best musicians of the festival first hand. What a night, the details of which got lost in the sound of the trumpets of joy, and the smiles of beautiful women.