There is a veritable wonderland for all the magical and mystical things we love. It’s called Balkanology.
Walking into the Fiddle East party at the Klein Libertas Theatre last Friday was like walking into a strange but utterly enchanting village. A new-world meets old-world hamlet for every outlandish, abandoned spirit drifting somewhere between Stellenbosch,Eastern Europeand the rest of the world.
We headed straight for the bar in an attempt to ease our transition from planet Earth into Balkan revelry, passing as we did so a motley collection of gypsies and harlequins. Ten minutes later and the bouncing, clapping, bom-bapping beats proved to be magnetic. We responded to the summons from the music, cheers and heat resonating from the inter-leading room.
The dance floor was a carnival of stomping, swaying bodies and we jumped into rhythm between a woman in a belly dancing outfit and a guy in a straitjacket, able to move everything but his arms.
There were books everywhere – hanging from the ceiling, balanced on people heads, and a large pile arranged with other memorabilia in front of the DJ stand. There were motifs recalling fires and folktales, and a hundred small details. We were completely enchanted by the sights, sounds and stories around us.
Toby2Shoes – a Balkanology regular – took to the decks in full character, complete with fedora and pipe – a wise old man ready to help us comprehend our ‘reason for being’ through music. And then the moment we’d all been eagerly awaiting. It started with the sounds of a fiddle and a tambourine and then joined with an electro-beat that had us all in trance-like jubilation. It was the kind of music that tells a strange and unexpected story, one that you can’t resist being drawn into. Sure enough, it took the listener on a journey through forgotten childhood memories to some far away corner of the world, where we found ourselves dancing alongside the characters in our dreams.
Out of breath and dry-mouthed we headed back to the bar, and struck up nonsensical and light-hearted conversations about our Siberian heritage with strangers dressed as butterflies. After a dose of fresh air and a little opportunistic photo fun with the discarded remnants of other people’s costumes it was back to the dance floor for some more electro-folk foolery.
The end of the evening found us plonked on the grass outside telling stories about ourselves and our everyday lives as if we were looking through a telescope thousands of miles away in some distant land.
Balkanology brothers – bring on the next one…
Balkanology’s Fiddle East took place at the Klein Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch on Friday 17 February 2012.