What do you want, Kosova? In the search of a future: how to make money out of internationals, how to get a visa to the US or a German wife to marry. That’s all you’ve learned out of the war?
Don’t be stupid. Do you want to be treated like third class citizens of the EU? Stop watching TV, let the future start here and now, let your dreams happen by doing it yourself, by struggling for a miracle. Crossing Bridges bring what the man in the office can’t bring alone, initiating cultural life and cultural exchange! Qiftelia rocks the dancefloor, dutifulldaughters makes girlschool, Rugova Mountains gets tourism and the evolution takes off…
10 days have passed since the festival. After days of recovering in the wonderful Rugova Mountains, there are lots of different thoughts and feelings about the festival circulating through our brains. What great things happened and what could have been better organized. Lets start with the frustrating sides: chaos, mud, technical defects, no money for catering, security couldn’t prevent stealing, no electricity, ridiculous ticket sales, and a shooting nearby. But chaos is part of creation and unavoidable when you work with people who never have organized or even seen a festival before, and mud is famous p
art of OpenAir Festival Culture. Technical problems are frustrating, but didn’t prevent great concerts, Catering was family-made, and the kitchen team was working hard. Stealing has two sides, you also have to care and think about your things. No electricity and broken generators is part of life in Unmikistan and generator cities, but it also created nice candlelight sessions in the studio and extra energy when it came back. Ticket sales didn’t work well, but lots of people were there and enjoyed it. And the shooting happened after the festival and had nothing to do with us. Of course it shocked us as it happened near the artist camp, but playing with guns is a general problem in Kosova, a problem of young men who have nothing else to do. This is just one more reason why this kind of festival is necessary in Kosova. Have sex, no guns!
Despite all these struggles, we will never forget how the collective started to grow over the weeks and how the hills became another planet during the weekend, a space ship moving through the universe…. In the last days before the festival more and more helping brains and hands showed up, in the office, at the festival location, at the artist camp. Artists from all over gathered in the theatre in Peja and turned it into Peja’s first (contemporary) youth centre by setting up musical instruments, a techno studio in the director’s office, rehearsing, playing and recording together. Big thank yous to the people of the theatre, who opened their doors to musicians coming from all directions: Peja, Pristina, Gjilan, Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Skopje, Sophia , Napoli, Budapest, Mexico, Canada, USA, Korea, Lithuania. A crazy mix of people playing in the dim candlelight, waiting for KFOR to bring the promised generator …
We had some interesting and intense sessions every day and night, a wild mix of electronic and acoustric instruments, rock, rap, techno, jazz, and traditional Albanian. It wasn’t easy for the students of the Center for New Music to record that international crowed of musicians, but they tried their best to deal with the praxixshock. Qiftelia meets groovebox, Indian drums meets electro guitar, north meets south west meets east, boy meets girl…
The festival location was an amazing and wonderful place, up on a hill above the city with an incredible view of the mountains and overlooking the entire valley of Peja, horses and cows running free like in Goa. The Artists Camp was set-aside on the premises of the local Judo Club. There was a swimming pool we were allowed to use. Caseys mothers and sisters along with widows from the village of Qyshk (who experienced a massacre on 14 May, 1999) and guests from Korea started to set up a sacred circle kitchen one week before the festival to provide food for all the people working on the festival grounds and in the live-recording studio. TMK and KFOR helped bring and set up a lot of green humanitarian aid and military tents for all the guests to sleep. It was raining all day Thursday and so the people slept in the Judo club and in the Cinema. So the film festival couldn’t go on Thursday evening, but we opened up a public party in the cinema with the juggling playground and lots of great concerts and jam sessions. The rain finally let up on Friday and, as we lost one entire day of set-up, there were still a lot of things to do to prepare the location. One problem was the mud. Normal cars couldn’t get up on the hill, only tractors, jeeps and KFOR trucks. But by the evening both sound systems were running only there were no additional lights on the location, so it was quite a dark adventure to get from one stage UFO to the other. On the alternative Floor Urban FM and Undersound DJs played great tekhouse music all night long till late morning, and the playground and samodelia collectives enyojed fire- playing. On the Main stage various youth bands performed. Biplan, the Britpop boygroup from Lithuania took off their clothes on stage and were playing in red UÇK T-Shirts. Officially, any signs and symbols of the war were forbidden by KFOR and the Unmik police to be shown on the festival, but I have to admit it really looked sexy.
Saturday we worked a lot to prepare the location, more lights were set up, the alternative DJ stage transformed into a band-stage for the live acts and we finally found a computer to record onto… It was a great night on both stages with lots of great bands. The alternative stage started with Samodelia, a live act from Sophia playing with the violinist from BllaBlaBlla, then Korai Oram, a legendary psychedelic band from Budapest. It was great. I didnt play music with Babuka and Shuki as I was too drunk and too busy being the Mama of the stage. But I played fire and the Lover303 Album and I was happy to see people dancing. I started a discussion with some boys who I ve seen throwing a stone on a firejuggler playing in the backstage area and a fight with with security who wanted to safe me from that discussion or any riots. I could safe myself by communication, a good translater and was happy when Stefan Ludley started his DJ Set. He played till the morning with Roberto on the drums, we were dancing on the stage and had a lot of fun. In the morning Mi2 Moon, a couple from Skopje made a great live-act and students of Art faculty of Pristina had a live painting session on the dancefloor with a big cloth everyone could paint on. The Main stage had a great musical program with the Cooper Family, Por-no and Jericho from Prishtina, Super Hiks and BllaBllaBlla from Skopje .
The Main stage opened Saturday night with a sunset ritual, connecting the audience into a giant circle, and creating a united prayer honoring the mothering energy of all forms as a primary element of developing real peace, followed by a gong meditation to honor the souls killed in the war. Maybe not all people understood this: they go to festival to forget, not to remember the deaths of the war. I can understand that but I also understand it as an symbolic action to give respect to what has happened in the past and what the purpose of bringing all these people together to celebrate a festival. Peja was one of the most destroyed cities in Kosova and there are a lot of people who lost members and parts of their family. It’s not just hippie or religious bullshit, to lead a gong meditation on stage with a mother who has lost all five of her sons in the war and to make a prayer circle with the mass at sunset.
Besides making a connection between the people, it’s also a way to involve the whole community of Peja and a way of giving respect to the experience and victims of war. I like this show better than watching stupid video clips shown on German TV, which is running all day and night in the typical household or cafe in Peja.
So (grand)mothers on stage had quite a controversial effect, but with some distance I think it was a protection of the whole event.
Sunday morning the generator somehow was turned off on the alternative stage but after some enerving discussions with a stupid security guy, we got it started again .We had a nice party until afternoon, with Tekhouse Sound from Pristina, Psytrance from Berlin, and a juggling playground for kids. Partyfraggles, children and farmers were dancing, juggling and helping collect trash. When the thunderstorm started, the party was moved up onto the stage until Nexhdet came and got angry that we hadn’t stopped his PA and it got wet. As we are used to playing in and partying in the rain in Germany, we didn’t know that it can be quite dangerous to do this in Kosova because of electricity and cables. But we were lucky and spent the whole day get down from the hills and moving the equipment back to the cinema for the afterparty and some concerts that couldn’t happen on th main stage because the rain didn’t stop.
Looking at the festival from some distance, I recognized that the festival has left its mark in the memories of kosovar youth and brought a lot of inspiration. As the first Open Air festival in Kosova it created bridges to the festivals and festival culture happening all over Europe and all over the world.
Party people from Pristina told us how happy they were about that festival experience and bands from outside mailed afterwards to say thank you for the inspiring experience of playing in kosov@. Despite all the struggles, we spend a nice time, enjoyed dancing, partying, playing, making nice contacts to cross more bridges in the future.
A lot of people had to come together and struggle to let the miracle happen, to create the spirit of another world, another family of the future. Saturday night the party turned into a spaceship and started to fly, up there on the hills overlooking Peja and the mountains. Within sound lightshow, fire and darkness there was something going on that Rugova had never seen before. Great music, dancing people, fire performers, firesign, prayer circle, happy campers, mothers on stage, children collecting trash, riot girls… Music and Vision under the (first) open air of Kosova. After one week of living and working together in the sun and rain... On Friday and Saturday the mud was gone….
Maybe we forgot the revolution, because the evolution brings a lot of work, reality and critique to deal with. Quite often you have to deal with a kind of consumers’ attitude, which can make you quite frustrated or aggressive. Bring us, help us, heal us, make a big show for me and bring money. Maybe foreigners came to Kosova just looking for a good-paying job or some really were thinking they could help or heal the society. But be careful with the Heil in Europe, better learn to heal yourself. And that’s happening. It looks like, healing yourself from war (trauma) in Kosova means making a lot of money, to rebuilt the house, to buy a TV, a kitchen, a women ,a mercedes benz…
Life has got expensive in kosova, because international presence makes international prices. So 1 DM turned in 1 Euro. You cannot expect Kosovar people to work for free like us, bored dutifull daughters and sons on the guilty or adventure trip. People in Kosova have to survive in a country they cannot leave (so easily), so they’ve become specialists on how to make money out of their international colony, out of NGO and international presence. You meet a lot of people who push you to do something, want to be part of it, if you do it, but in the end you are alone and they’re just hanging around doing nothing, Or you have to deal with people who have always known how it could have been done better, who would have done it better, BUT they did nothing. You have to deal with mistrusting lonely wolves, big heroes, unable to communicate or cooperate, crying for Casey Cooper Johnson or a Mama. “One Albanian is a genius, two Albanians working together are a catastrophe,” said an Albanian friend to me as a joke. But it’s not just an Albanian thing, it’s a worldwide thing and a problem of capitalism. If nobody really cares and everyone is just doing their own job, there is no festival. Is money the only thing kicking your ass and making you creative? Of course, if you have a lot, you can make a lot, but creativity also means making something out of nothing. And there was nothing like this festival before in Kosova!
But now there was something, and it had its ingenious and catastrophic sides. Because it’s a hard crash back into reality when you sit there after a festival realizing that a lot of people profited from the festival, but the Crossing Bridges Collective went into debt. And in the end there are people who tell you that the festival only happened for commercial purposes, and you have to read that the shooting at the pool was part of the festival…
Maybe shooting is part of the balcans or part of kosov@, or just part of bored young boys’ lives in Peja, hanging around in the café at the pool. Luckily we can say: nothing happened to our crew and there was no problem with weapons during the festival. You also can take it as a positive sign. You can never control two big fields, you cannot garantee that there are no weapons at the festival. Aside from security and police presence, the only thing you can do is to believe in the idea of making a festival, to believe in music and in the young people of Kosov@. And looking from this side we can really be proud of our festival and say it was a success. It created a strong spirit of non violence, tolerance, respect, and love.
We could not avoid that there were some stupid boys throwing stones on the fire jugglers in the backstage area, or behaving stupidly toward women, but fortunately they were a minority and sometimes it’s also a chance for women to learn how to handle it. And teenagers playing with weapons is a worldwide phenomenon and goes along with children growing up with war in their countries, in their cities. It’s just one more reason to show an anti-weapons film like In the hands of the youth more then just once on TV and make more projects with the young people, which give them new perspectives on their future.
For that reason, I can just say, that it is a sad fact that an event like the Crossing Bridges Festival didn’t get more financial support by public institutions and private business in Kosov@.
Where is all the money going to in this weird country, in this international colony?
If people from the outside are coming here, playing and working for free, it should be internationally supported. If people from Kosova cannot go out of the country, then bring the people here and create a space where they can meet in an equal way and become one family .
For me, coming from Germany, it was an inspiring event, a personal experience and it gave me a lot of nice contacts and exchanges with people from Kosova, Balcans and eastern European countries. I never could have gotten what from the films on TV what I have gotten by making holidays in Kosovo during the last years, by crossing a lot of bridges to X-Yugoslavia. How to describe this gathering and crazy mix of international and local people, working together to let a miracle happen. KFOR and Hippies, UCK und BritPop, New Age Rituals and HipHop, Technofreaks, qifteliaplayers, grandmothers, widows, fightclub, security, dancing children and countryboys , dutiful daughters from Frankfurt…The daughters didn’t do their girlschool, their girl music and video workshop, there was no time as the whole event became a girlschool in itself. Anne and Eva learned to play their first concert Sunday night in the cinema and I learned to play the aggressive women Saturday night, throwing firechains and my fuckin’ German passports. This was my personal ®evolution and I enjoyed it a lot!