Guide to SKOPJE

We still have good fun on stage

A well-known guitar sound pierced the heavy Dojran air. In just a second  it was accompanied by the roar of a few thousand fans who started singing “Zapej, zapej bistra vodo I ti sonce milo, zlatno. Zapej ptico i ponesi pesna nova, maka stara… – Sing, sing you clear water and you dear, golden sun. Sing you bird and bring a new song and old sorrow…”.

I was just a child when “Pusti kosi -Let your hair flow” was released by Zijan, a band from Gevgelija, and got them the status of rock legends. Twenty years later I have the pleasure of talking to two of the founders of the band Aco Mitrev and Koce Dinev. I made the  interview after their performance at D Festival in Dojran last weekend. They seem modest and direct as they speak about their beginnings, biggest successes and future plans.

-Zijan was formed in 1980 when we started our university studies in Skopje. We had another band before that. It was called Third Shift but we decided to rename it into Zijan. In those days our biggest success were performances at rock festivals in MKC Skopje (Youth Cultural Centre) – says Dinev.

He is the author of the legendary “Pusti kosi – Let your hair flow”. He says the song was written in one breath and in the beginning he couldn’t imagine it would grow into a rock evergreen song.

-I can say I “pulled it out of my hat”, and it’s interesting that we recorded it by chance. We had a recording session arranged with MTV (Macedonian National Television) and we had all the songs we needed. “Pusti kosi – Let your hair flow” entered as an outsider but in the end it was the biggest hit from the album, and it continued to live. It’s an honest and simple song.

Zijan isn’t a one song band. They are remembered for their “Ej ostani – Hey, stay”, “Deca bevme – We were kids”, “Elizabet”, “Obicna pesna – Plain song” all of which are often discussed in music forums and on YouTube. All members of the band are excellent instrumentalists which was crucial when in 1987 they won the prestigious “Gitarijada” festival in Zajecar, Serbia. They recall how difficult it was to  make their way through and be recognized on the Yugoslav music scene.

– We come from a small town, Gevgelija, so it was really hard to make a record or to appear in the media, and practically we got a recording arrangement after we won in Zajecar and Subotica. That’s when they thought that we must be good – says Mitrev. In 1990 we recorded our first album and it was the way it was. Studio doors started opening for us, but before that it was really difficult to enter the recording studio in MTV. 

They seemed anxious to hear the question about their plans for the future and whether this performance in Dojran is a prelude to other live performances and maybe some new songs.

Mitrev: I think those festivals and “Gitarijada” are old stories. We have to look at what we can do now. It’s a great thing that we function brilliantly on stage, we agree well and we have fresh forces in the band – Koce’s two sons who are brilliant musicians, a guitarist and a drummer. I think they deserve a chance to show what they can do.

Dinev: We have been getting calls from organizers who heard that we are playng at D Festival and they all ask “Hey, Zijan, are you still playing?”. We also got some invitations so we will have to satisfy the demand.

Mitrev: Most of all, we have great fun on stage. We use a lot of positive energy and that is enough for me. Primarily, our plans are to play well, but we might have a surprise in store.

Mirko Trajanovski

photo: Aleksandar Semenpeev