Serbia - lucky to get opportunities through music to meet fascinating people and places and so it was the past week in Belgrade, big thanks to Slobodan Trkulja and Balkanopolis, It's exciting musically to throw yourself among a new group of musicians from a different culture. We Balkanised my 'Dark Reel' and some classics from the modern Scottish folk canon including Martyn Bennett's 'Swallowtail', Gordon Duncan's 'Sleeping Tune'.. the Serbian musicians, and Dutch drummer, are great players, good human beings - a real kaval player in the band, so I had a few questions. People, in general, have challenging financial circumstances over there. It's about 3 hours away but quickly gives fresh perspective. Wages are low, a university graduate would command a higher pay bracket of around 200 euro a month. I didn't haggle. English spoken by all it seems, womankind there need particular mention you would concur. The TV station, Ministry of Defence buildings and a couple others are still bombed out shells in the city centre, from 1999, thanks again Tony. I asked and was told very different accounts of the civil war than we were encouraged to believe here in the West. Of course. None of us now would be so quick to buy the Nato story now the duplicitous nature of their aspirations has been rubbed repeatedly in our faces, I hope...but a bit late for Serbia and it's neighbours. Went to my first opera. Slept a bit, then enjoyed the rest, didn't understand, Othello got progressively lighter as the show went on I thought, smokers balcony on the breaks was a scene to behold. I was part of a TV show recording yesterday, tunes and chat, was quite something ...27 of us jammed into a very cool props studio/warehouse for Serbian film industry, see attached photos, Tim Matthew I'm reminded of you (the industry is on hard times - no government incentives for film-makers..). I politely declined the offer of staying up for 24 hours artificially with a seemingly fun group of people who also talked of a certain kind of depression which is manifest across the society to a degree, but if true, is certainly being lifted by the musical adventurousness of Slobodan and his band - which scottish music band could get an audience of 1600 on a self promoted gig? I'll be happy if I get 60 on Thursday in Ballater. This thursday. with Graeme Stephen

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