Guide to SKOPJE

Istanbul makes me feel at home


Oliver Josifovski, musician and founder of the band Ljubojna together with his wife Vera Miloseska Josifovska. However, his interests and activities do not begin and end here.

Oliver Josifovski

He is also one of the founders of Bitola’s cult band Foltin, member of several renowned jazz ensembles and   one of the most sought for composers for the theatre. He started composing for theatrical plays since he graduated from the Jazz Academy in Sofia. He has written music for about 60 plays and his band Ljubojna was actually started as project band for the theatre play “Money Kills”. The quality of his works was noticed by director Nurula Tunger and the two of them have cooperated for two years now on plays by Dusan Kovacevic at Istanbul City Theatre. Every year, Josifovski spends a long time in Istanbul working for the theatre, at the same time being actively involved in the life of the city. In this conversation he revealed his life and activities in this megalopolis, announced the new Ljubojna album, and a new project with director Pavlos Danelatos at Andreas Voutsinas Theatre in Thessaloniki.        

Josifovski with Nurullah Tuncer

Oliver, you have co-operated with Istanbul City Theatre and director Nurula Tunger for two years now.

This was my second year of staying in Istanbul for a long period of time and the reason for that is my professional engagement. I composed music for a new theatrical project of Istanbul City Theatre and that is the play “Life in Tight Shoes” by Dusan Kovacevic. The director of the play is Nurula Tunger. As I said, this is the second time that we have worked together and, at the same time, it is the last play of the trilogy by Dusan Kovacevic that has been staged in Istanbul City Theatre in the last few years – “Dress Rehearsal for Suicide”, “Community Centre” and “Life in Tight Shoes”. I was involved in the production of the last two plays. In “Community Centre” the music was the focus of the play. It was performed live on stage with an orchestra of 12 musicians. The play was staged during 2011/2012 season.

Dusan Kovacevic and Oliver Josifovski

In “Life in Tight Shoes” I also have musicians performing live on stage. However, I wanted to downsize the orchestra to the minimum and decided to go with a band of only three musicians. The play is a dark comedy and the music that the band performs has the task of following the character’s inner state and evoking the same feelings and state of mind in the audience.  There is also music that we recorded in a studio. At the end of the play all actors and musicians sing a song together. Fortunately, the actors have excellent vocal abilities and this song creates a truly grand finale – a scene that depicts a moment when workers chant songs on Labour Day, turning the song into a kind of a reminder of all the wonderful childhood memories of so many people during communism, making them feel happy and cheerful again. Dusan Kovacevic, the author of the play, loved the song and personally expressed his impressions after the premiere in Istanbul.

At the rehearsal in one of the oldest theatres in Turkey

How do you feel about the city of Istanbul?

Istanbul is such a welcoming city. It’s always a great pleasure and joy to spend time with my friends whom I met there in the past few years, in the theatre and from all walks of life. They are people from clubs, music stores, publishing houses, restaurants, so the city always gives me that feeling of being at home.

Guitar store

Selling diferent fruits on the street

When I go for a walk round the spice stalls, colourful vegetable and fruit stalls, countless little sweetshops, street musicians that can be seen on every corner, it is always a chance to meet someone new, someone who will try to sell Istanbul to me over and over again, and the funny thing is, that I buy it over and over again. That’s Istanbul – a huge ALISVERIS (market). My personal favourite is dining fish in the little restaurants in Kadikoy. The season of preparing fresh fish begins in September and people have grilled fish and Yeni Raki every day. Local bands play in those restaurants and it is always a pleasure to listen to their music.

street musicians

street musician

There was one song that haunted me during my whole stay. It had a kind of phrasing incredibly similar to music from Ohrid region that can be heard in songs by Biljana Ensemble for example. I asked them what kind of music it is and the answer was “DUYDUM KI UNUTMUSIN”. Well, that was the song and it became clear to me that the music comes from the region of Drama. I asked them to play the same song every day and secretly recorded it, so now I have quite a variety of performances to enjoy. My favourite is the version performed by two street musicians, father and son, on clarinet, harmonica and tarabuka. Of all the places I visited in Istanbul, the ones that I will always remember are the rooftop restaurants, especially Galata Konak. It has a view of Galata Bridge and a large part of the city.

Taksim Square

What is cultural life like in the city? Did you have a chance to participate actively on the music scene in Istanbul?

I spent some time at the Kooperatif bar in Safak Velioglu. It is a frantic club on Taksim Square where there is a jam session with Turkish music on Wednesdays and on Thursdays it’s creative jazz jam session.

Kooperatif Art and Performance Hall is mostly frequented by musicians. Every musician passing by stops for tea, beer and a chat. Taksim Square is visited by about 2-4 thousand people a day, and every hundredth person is a musician. That’s a great number. It is a place where you can play and listen to a lot of music, all kinds of music. Safak (the owner) speaks Macedonian with an interesting accent. You can meet different people, some of whom know our bagpipe player Stefce Stojkovski. I met some French people who were on their way to Stip to learn Stipski cocek. Then, I met some Canadians who transcribe music from the Aegean, and they could tell the difference between music from Voden and Lerin region…

You are an active member of many ensembles, you often perform in Macedonia and other countries, but it has been a long time since Ljubojna released “A song for my song” and “Ljubojna in Life” … What is happening with the band? What are your next projects?

My next project is actually in progress, it is a project with Andreas Voutsinas Theatre in Thessaloniki directed by Pavlos Danelatos. It is a one-year research project on Euripides “Rhesus”.

I am expecting new material from Ljubojna now. It consists of songs that we recorded and mixed in the past few months. We called it Ljubojna “Brass Fantasy”. It is music played on wind instruments, percussions and sung by 8 female vocalists. The promotion of the new album is set for November 20th with a big concert at Universal Hall in Skopje, within the manifestation Autumnal Musical Festivities.

Nenad Georgievski