Words: Nataša Cordeaux
This PEAKS culture club event focused on South Eastern Europe. Balkan Stories turned into an evening of escalating performances, from the female vocals of Orphea echoing the mountains' songs, and Gypsy Nik and poet Ana Sefer's Kafana collaboration bringing us the grit of growing up during Belgrade's war to photographic daydreams and migrant journeys. From the moment you walked through the door of Shoreditch jazz club, Joyeux Bordel, spotlights brought forth from the darkness the photographic journeys of Milica Nikolić, Olivera Indjic and Julian Plaka. A totally immersive and new Balkan experience - the night was topped off by the crowd's uninhabited dancing to the big brass ska sounds of Op Sa! Balkan Band.
Not So Popular sought to pull together the various loose strings of London's writers, musicians and artists, whose ethnic connection to the Balkan region is currently without a solid space nor creative community in this large multifaceted city. The purpose of the event was to provide a platform in Western Europe where these cultures of South Eastern Europe can claim and affect a Western audience without agendas. The artists showcased, ranging across Albania, Serbia and Croatia, are tied to countries, politics and identities that are constantly being affected, dictated and manipulated by the West. The event was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on London's underground Balkan scene. Not So Popular let the voice, sounds and ideas of the Balkans be explored without an agenda in the British capital.
The term 'Balkan' has its dubious origins, especially as one in which Lord Byron is said to have coined the term from his exotic poetic travels. However, each of the artists felt an association with the term - it's a sort of border-fluid identity, especially for those connected to a region where nationalism has caused devastation and destruction. Balkan Stories was each collaborators opportunity to open up their story to the general public - everyone from the well-read and Diaspora to those baffled that Siberia and Serbia are different countries!
The night was a huge success and a strong example of Not So Popular's commitment to marginalised communities and cross-cultural, creative collaboration. For more details on the event and those involved, please contact Nataša Cordeaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.