Guide to SKOPJE


When you listen to an hour and a half of ska, reggae and rap spiced with familiar Balkan sound, Roma melodies and pop evergreens, when crowds dance to songs by Goran Bregovic and Manu Chao, then the stage is surely occupied by Baildsa, a band that comes fromThessaloniki.

The original idea to form Baildsa came from Thanos and Yiannis Gountanos in 2007. They managed to realize their idea in a very short time and just a year later the band started a concert tour roundGreece. Their music is energetic and their lyrics burst with cosmopolitan messages and calls for United States of Balkans, which is the title of their only album released in 2011. They call themselves “citizens of U.S.B. (United States of Balkans) who express their existence through pulling strings, beating leather drums, blowing trumpets, pressing the accordion and organizing time”. Balkan3 talked to Thanos Gountanos, frontman of the band right after their performance at D Festival in Dojran.

This is your first performance at a festival out ofGreece. What do you think about the reaction of your audience inMacedonia?

-Great, very warm people. We tried to create good atmosphere. This was our first performance here and we hope to come again. Yes, this is our first festival out of Greece but in September we have a concert scheduled in Turkey and we have some plans to visit Bulgaria too.  

You have an interesting repertoire. Besides your own songs, you played the Eurovision song “For real” by the Turkish band Athena and a few songs by Manu Chao.

-We like Athena a lot. There are many similarities between our music and theirs. We love their song and we also play it in Greece. Manu Chao, on the other hand, is a friend of ours, and we appreciate his music. We play his music and enjoy the vibe of his songs.

We heard songs by Goran Bregovic and your own version of “Mastika”. How did you get the idea to combine so many different music styles?

-Basically, we play the kind of music we like. If we find a Macedonian song that we like, we play it. If we find a Bulgarian song that we like, we mix it with other familiar sounds. Balkan countries have similar music. I grew up in a little village near Albania, other members of our band have lived in Istanbul. In Turkey and Macedonia music does not differ much. We sing in different languages – Turkish, Albanian, Roma… This is all connected with our idea for United States of Balkans.

You have an interesting name. What I could find is that Baildsa comes from a Turkish word and it can be interpreted as “fed up, sick of it all”. What are you fed up with, what are you sick of…?

-The name comes from the Turkish word “bayilmak” which is also used in Greece and other Balkan countries. We wanted it to sound Balkan, but at the same time to symbolize our idea. Baildsa for us means that we cannot stand the current situation, you know wars and borders… We want to create the United States of Balkans and that is what we fight for.

In the song United States of Balkans you call for states and borders to disappear so that nobody would have to go to war any more. Do you believe that it is possible to happen in the Balkans?

-Well, this is our dream and we believe it is possible. It is difficult to deal with Balkan people, but there are new generations who are open-minded and understand that borders don’t mean anything, that we are all brothers. Music brings people together, we know that differences exist but we should be free to travel to all countries throughout Europe, Asia, round the world. That is our dream.  

Can music win the war against politics and stereotype?

-We hope it can and we are glad that people like the idea of U.S.B.

What’s it like to be citizens of U.S.B.?

-Ha, ha, ha… The feeling is brilliant. We dream that one day we will play in all Balkan countries, share our music and we hope a great number of people will join this community called U.S.B. 

Mirko Trajanovski