Conferences and festivals are very important forms for diffusion of knowledge, culture and art, since they give insights into regional or global achievements in one period of time. In the last two decades Balkan Peninsula has become an area with a stunning festival culture. Some festivals as Sziget in Hungary were founded in the 90’s while others as Sea Dance Festival in Montenegro and Sonus in Croatia are rather new and upcoming events. Every year some new music or film festival emerges in Balkans and makes step forward in the process of “festivalisation” of this part of the world.
1. SZIGET FESTIVAL (HUNGARY)
Sziget Festival is one of the biggest and the most prominent music events of Europe which was established in the early 90’s. The festival takes place in one beautiful island in the heart of the Hungarian capital Budapest. Sziget offers the variety of music genders, ranging from the biggest names of the international pop and rock scene and electronic music up to metal, folk, jazz, blues, alternative and even classical tunes. Sziget is the only big festival that promotes authentic Roma music. If you are looking for something more than music, you will find theatre and art events within the festival program. One of the coolest things is the river beach, where music fans can chill, relax and enjoy the summer on the Danube River. The location of the festival is great, because Sziget is actually happening in the central area of one of the finest European capitals, where you can find vivid cultural and art scene, stunning old architecture and cool bars. Just to drop a few names of the Sziget 2015 line up: Robbie Williams, Florence and the Machine, Jamie Woon and so on….
Date: 10-17 August 2015
Venue: Óbudai Island, Budapest, Hungary
Festival passes available from 199 EUR
2. EXIT FESTIVAL (SERBIA) & SEA DANCE FESTIVAL (MONTENEGRO)
Annual Exit festival is taking place in Novi Sad, the second largest city of Serbia. One of the most thrilling things that this festival has to offer is the venue itself; seventeen century fortress called Petrovaradin stands on the right bank of the Danube River. Exit festival is happening in the summer and it lasts for 4 nights. The same as the Sziget festival it offers many music genders on approximately 40 stages. The most popular ones are the “Main stage” where the biggest music starts of Rock, Pop and Hip Hop scene perform and the iconic “Dance arena” that hosts the most popular djs and producers from the global scene and receives around 25.000 clubbers. Sunrises on the arena are something that you will remember all your life: great music, visuals, atmosphere, vibe, dancing with folks from all around the globe. After parties are happening at the river beach called“Štrand”, which is the best spot to spend your time during the day. Just to drop a few names of the Exit 2015 line up: Motorhead, Hardwell, Chris Liebing, Octave One live,etc…..
Date: 9-12 July, Sea Dance Festival within Exit 16-18 July 2015
Venue: Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad, Serbia and Jaz beach, Montenegro
Festival passes available from 99 EUR
Photo by Imre Szabo
3. GUČA (SERBIA)
Guča is the most famous trumpet festival in the world. It is happening in the small town of Guča, which is located near the city of Čačak, about 200 km away from the Serbian capital Belgrade. Nowadays, it became very popular tourist destination. The festival draws music lovers from all over the globe as well as fans of traditional Balkan Music to come and spend a week eating traditional Serbian food, drinking plenty of rakija and dancing on the tables. The festival looks like one big and crowded fair followed by trumpet performances that you are unlikely to catch anywhere else.
“I didn’t know you could play trumpet that way” said Miles Davis, a Guča Festival visitor.
Date: 3-9 August 2015
Venue: Guča, Serbia
4. NIŠVILLE (SERBIA)
Nišville is the international jazz music festival which is happening annually in the city of Niš in Serbia. The Jazz festival held in the eighteen century fortress of the southern town of Niš will showcase over fifty bands on five stages in the very center of the lovely town. Nišville offers diverse music program, from the soul superstar Solomon Burke and German lounge/latino bend De Phazz to British acid jazz band Incognito and prominent regional musicians. Next to Belgrade Jazz Festival this is the most prominent jazz music event in Serbia.
Date: 13-16 August 2015 Venue: Niš fortress, Niš, Serbia Festival passes availabe from 30e
5. REFRESH FESTIVAL (MONTENEGRO)
Do you feel like spending your summer on the beautiful beaches of Kotor bay in the Adriatic coast?! Than visit Refresh festival in the old town of Kotor in Montenegro. This year the festival celebrates the 9th edition and hopes to bring more high-quality artists from the global electronic music scene. The festival is taking place in one big club called Maximus that offers “Ibiza feeling” with good house and techno music, attractive dancers, visuals and international crowd. In this year’s edition the special guests are Derrick Carter and Octave One. Don’t forget that Montenegro is one small state located on the beautiful shore of the Adriatic Sea. So, visiting old town of Budva, Perast, Porto Montenegro in Tivat and Sveti Stefan Island is a “must”. You will find very interesting sacral architecture, lot of “ghost stories”, healthy sea food and beautiful beaches, my recommendation is a small private one called “Bajova kula”, situated just a few km away from the old town of Kotor. You can take a bus or a taxi to get there.
Date: 13-16 August 2015
Venue: Maximus club, Kotor Old Town, Montenegro
Festival passes available from 20e
6. DIMENSIONS FESTIVAL (CROATIA)
Dimensions festival takes place at one very special venue- Fort Punta Christo in the city of Pula in Croatian peninsula Istra. This is a new music festival that originated in 2012, but very quickly became critical acclaim for having the most forward thinking underground electronic music line-up. I will just note that last year’s edition was opened by non-other than the Darkside, duo of guitarist Dave Harrington and electronic producer Nicolas Jaar, who performed live at the Roman amphitheater. This festival promotes only underground electronic music, such as techno, tech-house, deep house and similar genders. If you are a big electronic music fun as me, don’t miss this awesome festival in Istra. If you don’t know where the remarkable city of Pula is located, or how it looks like, try to google it, I promise you won’t get disappointed. This year you can expect stars as Moodyman, Ban Klock, Surgeon, Rodhad, Johan Talabot…..
Date: 26-30 August 2015
Venue: Fort Punta Christo, Pula, Croatia
Festival passes available from 175 e.
7. SONUS (CROATIA)
New festival dedicated to underground electronic music called Sonus is happening at Zrće beach, in island of Pag that is known as the “Croatian Ibiza”. So, if you like islands, sea, cocktails, boat parties, beautiful people this is definitely a festival for you. It started two year and the first edition was a great success. Just to drop a few names from this year’s line-up: Dixon, Chris Liebing, Pan Pot, Loco Dice, Appolonia and many more. Sonus will host more than 50 international music stars. Two main partners of the festival are big clubs Papaya and Calipso. Just to note that prices on the island are not naive at all, the festival is organised by foreign team. Getting to the island of Pag is easy by ferry that you can take from Croatian cities Pula, Zadar or Split.
Date: 16-20 August 2015
Venue: Zrće beach, Pag, Croatia
Festival passes available from 149 e.
8. ELECTRIC CASTLE (ROMANIA)
Electric castle is medium size, but very interesting music festival in Romania. The venue of the festival is very remarkable-Banffy castle dating from the Renaissance era. The event is happening in the city of Cluj and it lasts 4 days. It offers nice music selection, ranging from Thievery Corporation and Morcheeba up to names as DJ Frash, Oliver Koletzki and similar. If you are into exotic, mystery, vampire stories from Transylvania and a good music this is definitely a festival worth checking out. And hurry up before this festival becomes very popular and mainstream.
Date: 25-28 June 2015
Venue: Banffy castle, Cluj, Romania
Festival passes available from 55 e.
9. HORIZON FESTIVAL (BULGARIA)
Horizon festival represents something unique in the festival culture of Balkans. It’s taking place annually during March in Bansko ski resort in Bulgaria. Here you can find electronic music on various venues, very fine dj sets and live acts. Very quickly it gained the status of forward thinking music festivals. This is one of the rare snow festivals in this part of the world where the atmosphere is described as “electric”. Bansko really is unbelievable value for money. You get affordable winter vocation, skiing, plenty of food, good music, spa and new friendships.
Date: 07-13 March 2015
Venue: Bansko ski resort, Bulgaria
Festival passes+ accommodation available from 250e.
10. INTERNATIONAL CLASSICAL MUSIC FESTIVAL OF CYCLADES (GREECE)
For the end of this article I want to point out one completely different music festival than the rest I mentioned. It is International Classical Music Festival in Syros, one of the Cyclades islands. It’s no secret that Greece has some of the most beautiful islands in the world. Imagine “paradise island”, summer and a blue sea followed by the sounds of classical music. This is what you will get if you visit the most prestige classical music event in Aegean. Festival is taking place in the Apollo Theatre of Syros, an architectural masterpiece of the 19th century, which is placed in the centre of the capital town of Syros, Hermoupoulis.
Date: August 2015
Venue: Apollo theatre, Syros, Greece
Festival passes available from 15e.
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.