Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

Friday 14 June 2013

Rome's birthday celebration

During our recent trip to Rome we were lucky enough to witness the celebration of city's 2,766th birthday. Yes, it is that old! Romulus supposedly founded the city on April 21, 753 B.C.

Romans have been celebrating Natale di Roma for over two millennia and this year was no exception. There were a few events honoring this holiday and as luck would have it, we were just passing by National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (aka Altare della Patria) when Roman mayor stopped by to place a wreath on the monument. The event was accompanied by a few tunes from a military marching band.

I also posted a couple of photos of this huge monument in my previous Wordless Wednesday post - you are welcome to check them out. The monument truly is magnificent and definitely deserves a special mention.

Despite of all the festal spirit we were very much amused by a bunch of policemen trying to maintain temporary traffic arrangement. One of the exits from the roundabout in front of the monument was closed during the event but local drivers did not take that easily. Every few minutes a car stopped, with someone trying to explain his reasons for an exception. It was funny to watch how the police officer's attitude was changing from strict at the beginning of each conversation to a more understanding and in some cases indulgent in the end.

You could hardly witness such a display somewhere in the UK. This was also a perfect example of how rules are often meant to be bent and even broken in a society like Italian. If you are aware of this fact, an Italian vacation might prove to run a lot smoother.

Every year on 21st of April Aventine Hill is decorated with lights, and often there is a fireworks display set over the Tiber River. This year there was also a free open-air concert held on the Piazza del Popolo. Another thing worth noting is that on this day most museums and city parks are open and also offer free admission to the public.


Monday 7 January 2013

Fado, the Portuguese Blues

Some people might say you have never really been to Portugal if you have not spend at least one evening listening to the local version of blues music. The Portuguese simply call it Fado.

It is pretty easy to find it in a random Lisbon café. Most of them are in the traditional fado quarter of Alfama and also Bairro Alto. Good places in both of those neighborhoods are usually pretty pricey - to find a more economical alternative, your best bet is to get a taxi out to the suburbs.
Surprisingly fado is not very common in other parts of the country (with the exception of the city of Coimbra).

It is pretty easy to find a place to get a taste of it, but getting a taste of the top notch performance is another thing. Cafés with present and potential future fado stars are usually reserved for fado connoisseurs, willing to pay 100 euros and more for the real thing. Usually food is also included in such deals, but do not expect too much - music is what you pay for.

If you ask me, as a first time visitor you will not be able to appreciate the difference between a really good, five star fado performance and a good touristy one. However, genuine local atmosphere could mean all the difference to some... in the end - the choice is yours.

If you are lucky you can also get a taste of the real thing for just a fraction of the price. The hostel we were staying in (Lisbon Destination Hostel), happened to have such a deal on their "menu" one night. You could get into one of the best fado cafés for a modest 10 euros.
Of course there was a catch - the hostel made a deal for a small group of their guests to arrive late and get a place near the bar (other guests were seated at proper tables). Also only tapas were included instead of a full dinner. If you do not mind being treated as a second-class guest and catch a strange glance or two from other guests every now and then, the whole idea might turn out just fine.

I think I could have actually enjoyed the performance in spite of everything if there were two or three of us. Unfortunately our group that night consisted of a dozen people and the place was already pretty crowded when we arrived. There was literally no way for all of us to squeeze next to the bar.

After a while the whole situation simply felt too awkward and some of us simply decided to leave the place. The hostel did not complicate a bit and gave us a full refund.

I actually could not say I do not recommend this whole thing but I definitely suggest you inquire about details. We were simply not told about the whole deal in advance and found it too far from our expectations.

However strange (or for some even unpleasant) this fado experience turned out to be, I liked the music. So afterwards I decided to at least buy a CD with some best of fado music.

I found a perfect place in the middle of a street on my way to the famous Elevador Santa Justa one morning (look for tips about that in one of the following posts).
There was an old car parked in the middle of a street, serving as a vending spot for fado CDs. The guy inside this little "music shop" was really knowledgeable and played music performed by a few different fadistas (i.e. fado singers) so I could choose my favorite. I chose Ana Moura and I really like her after I listened to the CD for a couple of times. Great stuff!


Friday 14 December 2012

Dej še'n litro concert in Ljubljana

Those of you out there who are having second thoughts about visiting the capital of Slovenia during winter season do not have to worry - December is as good time as any to do it. The city streets might not be as vibrant at this time as during summer months but there are still many reasons that will definitely leave a happy smile on your face every day before turning in for the night.

Two days ago was no different as a brass band Dej še'n litro held a concert in the picturesque streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia. This was a perfect excuse to get together with a group of friends and have a good time. It was a traditional, free concert dedicated to band supporters, friends and random passers-by alike.

The band took care of everything - good mood, mulled wine, excellent music and there was even a little something for those with a sweet tooth. A perfect evening in my eyes!

Ljubljana city streets provided a perfect setting for the event with holiday season lighting already set up. The sound of brass music echoed the streets long into the cold night.

I can only imagine how much effort they had to put into this event. Even the cold (it was below minus 5 degrees Celsius!) could not stop them and the crowd from having a great time.

It has to be quite a challenge playing an instrument in those conditions. Gloves get in the way, bare fingers get stiffened by the cold and despite of all that, songs have to be played just as fast as any other time. No wonder alcoholic beverages were the preferred choice of the evening.

It seemed to me the crowd really appreciated the band's effort and cheered loud after every piece they played. I really hope the band was also happy with how the whole event turned out.
Hopefully it was not the last time they did something like this. If I get a chance to visit another performance of Dej še'n litro brass band, I will definitely try to attend. I can hardly wait!


Monday 19 November 2012

Akordika group through my lens

Every summer for the last few years there is an interesting festival held in the Slovenian town of Idrija. It is called "Četrtki na placu", which literally translates into "Thursdays on the square".
The stage set on the main town square makes a great venue for events like this. Hopefully there will be even more of them in the future years.

Every year this small festival features different bands, vocal groups and even a theater group or two. So on every Thursday evening in July and August mostly local crowd gathers to listen to event.
If you ever happen to be in the neighborhood during that period, you should definitely check it out. The entrance is free of charge.

Often there is also something on the stage well worth a look. These photos are from a pleasant August evening I spent with a group Akordika. A guy I know plays trombone for them so it was an even more interesting performance from my point of view.

They advertise themselves as Musical theatre performers - a group of 10 talented people who perform popular musical theatre pieces.

Apart from top notch musicians, there is also a group of three dancers adding another dimension to their performances. They mostly perform pieces from various musicals, but also have many other great scores up their sleeves.

They do a great job and I really recommend you check them out if you ever get a chance.

I promised to send them a couple of photos and since some quite nice ones turned out I thought to also share them with you. I hope you like them.


Friday 3 August 2012

Music flowing through the streets of La Granja

Every year La Granja de San Ildefonso is one of FEMUKA street jazz festival venues.

Upon arrival to La Granja all the musicians lined up and played a tune or two while marching towards the center of the town. The first part of the concert took place in the shade of a small park. A group of locals was joined by a random group of tourists and everyone listened with smiles on their faces.

Almost every other street was also filled with music when bands marched past. Even a stop at a random resulted in a spontaneous jam session.
It was a great feeling to just tag along and enjoy the almost non-stop musical experience.

With or without music, this tiny old Spanish town, situated just 75 kilometers from Madrid is well worth a visit.

It is famous for a royal palace (Palacio Real de La Granja) built during the reign of Philip V and was used as a summer residence of the Kings of Spain for quite a while. It is quite obvious the palace itself and its vast gardens (covering more then 6 square kilometers!) were heavily influenced by Versailles.

The royal palace houses an interesting museum with luxuriously decorated rooms.
A part of the museum is dedicated to the Tapestry Museum. Highlights of the Tapestry Museum include the Flemish Apocalypse series, The Triumphs of Petrarch and the Honours and Virtues series, based on cartoons by Goya.
These cover a huge section of walls and the details are absolutely amazing. I was lucky enough to enjoy the company of a person heavily involved in putting together of brochures about those tapestries. Unfortunately in our very limited time there, we could only scratch the surface of the story behind those stunning pieces of art. Also photography is not allowed within the museum, so to get an idea of how those tapestries look like, you will have to look elsewhere.

If you are reading this - thanks again Brian for being a great host and guide. I hope there will be another chance for a proper tour of the palace together with its beautiful gardens. The whole place definitely deserves it.

If such palaces are not your thing, there are also other reasons for visiting this cute little walled town. Every year many known musicians choose to stop at this place for a concert.
In the past artists like Björk, Michael Bolton, Kar Češ Brass Band and José Carreras have already performed at La Granja de San Ildefonso. If you are planning a visit to the area it is always worth checking if there is something going on at the moment.

It is hard to describe how special this little Spanish town really is. Maybe Brian mentioned above said it best: "I came here from Ireland with my wife to teach English for a year. Now, twenty-and-some years later, we can't imagine living anywhere else."


Monday 30 July 2012

A taste of Segovia

Recently I visited the city of Segovia in Spain. Unfortunately this time sightseeing was not my number one priority. If you have read some of my previous posts, you already know I was there as a photographer for one of the bands playing at FEMUKA street jazz festival.
Even with most of my time dedicated to music, I still succeeded in taking quite a few pretty decent photos of this beautiful city.

Segovia is famous for the magnificent Roman Aqueduct which is also on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the magnificent 16th-century Gothic cathedral and a stunning castle - the Alcázar.

Unfortunately I didn't succeed in snatching of a really good photo of the famous over two thousand year's old Roman aqueduct - the light was never just right. Also the Alcazar of Segovia - the royal palace located on top of a hill between the rivers Eresma and Clamores stayed effectively hidden from my sight. I also couldn't find my way inside the cathedral.

Despite of all this I was still satisfied with the outcome. A few good photos and lots of great music was more than enough for me... at least for this time. I think the city with its surroundings definitely deserve at least another visit - next time probably with a little less focus on music.

Photos published in this post are just some of the better ones of that day. After going through many photos taken in Segovia I had to conclude it is another one of those places where you can hardly get away with a bad photo.


Friday 27 July 2012

Kar Češ Brass Band performing in Segovia, Spain

Performing in a fascinating Spanish city of Segovia was part of FEMUKA 2012 street jazz festival program. It was a great concert - the crowd really loved it.

This is a short video of Kar ČeŠ Brass Band from Slovenia, playing Round one - a piece originally performed by Youngblood Brass Band.


Sunday 15 July 2012

FEMUKA Festival in Black&White

I shot quite a few great photos during the FEMUKA street jazz festival in El Espinar, Spain. To take a look at all of the posts from the event look for the "Femuka" label in the right column.

I was playing around a bit with photo post-processing the other day and got some nice results. I decided to publish these in black&white. I hope you like them.


Wednesday 11 July 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Street jazz enthusiasts


Monday 9 July 2012

El Espinar - Alive with street jazz

Once a year streets of the Spanish little town of El Espinar get alive with street jazz rhythms. This year I was lucky enough to be there during the FEMUKA festival (Festival Internacional de Musica en la Calle).

I already posted a couple of photos of the festival in my previous post and will probably do it also in the next couple of posts. There were lots of great photo opportunities in the three days of festival. Many spontaneous jam sessions were also great for shooting some video. This is also something you can look forward to.

Apart from festival activities there was not much more to do in the little town but with really kind locals we met there is definitely a special charm to it. There are a couple of really charming squares and also an imposing old church is also well worth a look. For bird enthusiasts there are countless opportunities to take photos of many storks nesting on rooftops.

Even a nice hostel we stayed in was called Hostal La Cigüeña. In English this would translate to Stork Hostel. It does not offer any luxury but has very neat rooms with large and modern bathrooms. I definitely recommend it.

The town can also offer a perfect base for exploring surrounding cities and villages. Some of them are really stunning. In addition to this there are many natural parks nearby also worth visiting (a local I spoke with in a nearby village even claimed to have seen a wild wolf for a couple of times).
Sadly we didn't have time to enjoy what nature has to offer in that region but were lucky enough to be invited on a one day special tour through some really charming old villages. We really loved it!

I also plan to publish photos of those villages for you to get a few fresh ideas for a vacation in the Spanish region of Castilla y León.


Thursday 5 July 2012

FEMUKA festival 2012

A couple of days ago I returned from an unexpected trip to Spain. Those of you who also follow Travel Photo Blogging on Facebook might have seen some photos already. If you are not already amongst those few lucky ones you should like our FB page this very moment. This is the way to really stay up to date with our adventures.

Another way to see where are we at the moment is to follow our Instagram feed (look for travel_pb). Instagram is a really cool mobile application for both Android and iOS - I have posted about it here. Try it out and you won't regret it - it is free!

Let me get back to that recent Spanish trip of mine. As luck would have it, a chance to accompany my brother's band (Kar ČeŠ Brass Band) to a street jazz festival near the Spanish town of Segovia came out of nowhere.

This was one of those rare opportunities when you get a chance to combine things you love and don't even have to pay for it. In this case it was a combination of two favorite hobbies of mine - travel and photography. Good music and almost non-stop party were just cherries on top of a very good cake.
I did not think much before I took this chance and I was not sorry for a single moment. It was quite tiring but in the end well worth the effort.

We were stationed in the town of El Espinar which lies 70 kilometres NW of Madrid. Every year a local band called El Puntillo Canalla puts an enormous amount of effort in organizing FEMUKA street jazz festival (Festival de Música en la Calle). This year they did a great job for the 6th time in a row.
Chuso, Julia, Miguel and the rest of the band - thanks again for inviting us and taking such good care of us!

This year there were five bands performing in the streets of El Espinar, La Granja de San Ildefonso and Segovia for three days. Three of them were from different parts of Spain (Pamplona, Sevilla and El Espinar), one from Portugal and one from Slovenia.

All of the participating musicians were really good and played with one another in mixed jam sessions like they knew each other for ages.

The festival offered many opportunities for great photos and I think I shot at least a few good ones. Well I will let you be the judge of that.


Wednesday 30 November 2011

Lyrical Minutes in the City of Ljubljana

As I have already mentioned in my previous post, according to Lonely Planet Slovenia was voted amongst top 10 world travel destinations for the upcoming year.

If you are still wondering how this small European country could be on such a list, you might get a hint from this video. Locals are really trying hard to promote this country and lots of travellers appreciate the effort.
If you have a personal experience from a trip to Slovenia, please share your thoughts. I always find it interesting to read about how visitors from abroad see my home country.

Recently I have stumbled upon a video of a summer surprise event in the Slovenian capital - city of Ljubljana. It is one of those videos that make you wish you were there to see it in person.

I must say every year there are more events and festivals worth attending in Slovenia. Most of those still happen in Ljubljana during the summer months but there are quite a few also elsewhere and during other seasons.


Friday 23 April 2010

African thunderstorm in Slovenia

As you might have already guessed, not much has been going on lately. At least concerning me and my travels.
The only fun thing I did lately was a rock concert I attended last weekend. Kind of sad isn't it?

Quite a few people I know are planning some kind of travel adventures. As it seems, Africa seems to be the destination of choice at this moment. I would also be happy to do it but there are just so many things waiting for my attention... unfortunately some of them are already seriously behind schedule. I guess this means travel will just have to wait for some time. At least those more distant destinations.

Next week I am hoping to be free from work for a few days. I just might seize the opportunity and at least go for a one- or two-day trip. Somewhere nearby probably. Let us just wait and see.

In Slovenia the weather in April is usually changing all the time. It can go from warm sunshine to heavy rain and back for ten times in a single day. As a consequence it is quite hard to plan any weather dependent activities even a couple of days in advance.

All these things - music, Africa and thunderstorms remind me of a song I just can't get tired of listening to. That is why I decided to post this video for a change.
The song is titled Africa and is performed by Perpetuum Jazzile, a jazz choir from Slovenia. They are really, really good.
Two separate Youtube videos of their performance of "Africa" had more than 9.2 million views combined since first publishing in May 2009. Since there are only 2 million Slovenians, I suppose some other folks must have liked it too.

Those of you who haven't seen this thing yet... well, I suggest you pump up the volume, lean back for a few minutes and just enjoy the performance.


Sunday 16 March 2008

Time for some Brass Music

Since there is not much happening in the area of travel at this moment, I have decided to post a video of Kar Ces Brass Band. They were playing live at a birthday party I went to a couple of weeks ago.

I have already mentioned this in my previous post.

This is the first time I am posting a video. Quality isn't really something to brag about, but sound is the thing that matters in this one. Apologies to those who were expecting a photo in this photo blog.

Enjoy a special version of a song called Djurdev dan by Goran Bregovic, performed by Kar Ces Brass Band!


Wednesday 5 March 2008

Birthday party in a hunting lodge

Usually I don't write much about different parties but this time I'll make an exception.

Last weekend M. and I were invited to a birthday party. It was a party like any other, with drinking, eating and socializing on the schedule. The only thing that was a bit out of ordinary was the location.

The event happened in a hunting lodge near the town of Cerknica (Slovenia). The building is situated in the middle of a forest, with a forest road leading to it.

It was freezing cold. Fortunately there was lots of chopped firewood waiting to be burned. In spite of the cold we had a great time. I dare to say our present helped at least a bit.

The first part of the present was a bottle of Absinthe Supreme to keep us warm. It is made by a former coworker of mine and also sold on the internet (check out the link).

The second present was a band. A real brass band of eight eager musicians, one of which is my younger brother (he plays the tuba). They are called Kar Češ Brass Band and play all sorts of music. Mostly they are inspired by Balkan and New Orleans street jazz rhythms. They rocked the place!

You can see them in action on the three photos above. I might even post a movie of them playing at this party in one of the following posts.

Well, actually I don't know about that. After all, this is a photo blog...
What do you think?


Tuesday 10 July 2007

WASBE 2007 Conference, Ireland

My brother is currently in Killarney, Ireland. He is attending a World Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Conference. So if you are in the neighbourhood from 8th to 14th of July I guess you should not miss this event.
Unfortunately I won't be able to attend.

He has been chosen to play in the WASBE International Youth Wind Orchestra as a lead tuba player. He is the only Slovenian musician to play in the orchestra this year. We're all very much proud of him.

I hope he is enjoying Ireland.

He took his camera with him, so I hope he'll share a photo or two when he comes back.
If you are interested you can visit his Tuba Blog at


Friday 25 May 2007

The Queen Symphony

In Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, the best time of year is approaching. It is usually around this time, when the old city center starts to bounce in the rhythm of many bands and street performers. This usually lasts till mid September, when things cool down again (this in my opinion is the best time of year to visit Ljubljana). It is a true delight just to go for an evening walk through the streets and enjoy the atmosphere with a glass of wine in one of the many street cafes.

Two days ago the Travel Photo Blogging team (that's me and my girlfriand) went to listen to the Queen Symphony performed by the University Symphonic Winds Ljubljana.
My brother was one of the performers (check out his Tuba Blog) but even if he didn't play, I would go anyway. If you didn't know, once upon the time The Queen were one of my favorite bands.

This symphony was first performed by The British Royal Orchestra. But for this adapted version it was a world premiere. It was supposed to happen somewhere in Sweden a few days ago, but for some reason it got postponed.
I really enjoyed every single minute of it. I even got myself a poster of the event.


Wednesday 28 March 2007

The insides of a tuba

After taking photos of my brother with his new tuba, I have decided to take a deeper look into his new instrument...
I just used the flash for the strange effect and did not edit the photo afterwards.

This is how it looks on the inside.

Then I played some more with the reflections of myself. This time it was done without the flash.

Look at me inside a tuba!

As stupid as it may seem - I like the results.
How about you?


Tuesday 27 March 2007

The oldest European wind band gets new uniforms

My younger brother is a true music enthusiast. He plays tuba in a number of bands some of which are quite serious.
He is just starting a Tuba blog of his own. If you want you can pay him a visit.
Tuba is the biggest wind instrument and usually set somewhere at the back of an orchestra.
One of the bands he is playing in is the Mining Wind Band Idrija. It is supposed to be the oldest European wind band with its beginnings dating to 1665 or even earlier.

A history/geography lesson:
For those of you who don't know this - Idrija is a Slovenian town with more than 500 years of history. Most of it is in one way or another connected to its mercury mine. Nowadays the mine is closing down.
In California, USA there is a town called New Idria, which was named after the above mentioned Idrija. The second thing beside their name they have in common is a mercury mine.

Last week band members got new uniforms, which remain in classical mining coloring and style. A typical miners symbol from the uniforms sleeve can be seen on the above photo.

In addition to that they also bought a new tuba. These things can be quite expensive - the price of this model (Yamaha YBB-841 GE) is in the range of 10.000 USD (7.500 EUR). Ordered directly from Japan it surprisingly took only 10 days for delivery.

I just had to take a couple photos.

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