The first New Balkan Rhythm festival

Documentary about the first New Balkan Rhythm festival

Opening night of the New Balkan Rhythm festival

The opening concert of the festival on Thursday was of Alice in WonderBand, the hosts and organizers.

The entire program of the festival took place, as well as the opening concert, on the stage of the ecological center Radulovački in Sremski Karlovci.

The glowing faces of the international audience showed us that we are on the right track already at the opening.

Photos of the opening night: Jelena Jovanović
Costumes: Jelena Nedeljković
Hairdo: Beastic Studio, Budislav Vlajkov
Sound design: Goran Vujičin, MrV production

International artist residency at the New Balkan Rhythm festival

Five international artists, Ben Schuetz (Hamburg), Anna Llombart (Barcelona), Max Pollak (New York), Ana Vrbaški and Marko Dinjaški (Fruška gora) met for three days to prepare material for the festival concert at the first New Balkan Rhythm festival.

One of the songs and rhythms was brought by Anna Llombart. Sorteo, a name shared by both the rhythm and the song, was inspired by work of Coetus, Iberian Percussion Orchestra, and some of the elements of the choreography by work of Anna’s colleague, Jep Melendez.

Ben Schuetz brought the song Ivan inspired by his travels in South America and, above all, Argentina.

Marko Dinjaški and Ana Vrbaški prepared the festival anthem, New Balkan Rhythm.

We need something new
To connect the world
To dissolve the borders of any new orders
Let’s speak without words
New Balkan rhythm!

The festival developed inspired by the same idea after the residency.

Artist residency at New Balkan Rhythm festival

The feeling was incredible:
I’ve never felt such positive energy.


Festival concert

Presentation of the workshops and the residency

Saturday night was the highlight of the festival in many ways. After two days of workshops and three days of artist residency, the audience had the opportunity to see the results of the work, and the participants to bravely show how much they learned after three hours during two-day (or one and a half hour of one-day) participation in the workshops.

The performance of the Macedonian song Jovano, Jovanke was a presentation of the workshop Irregular Rhythms from the Balkans by Ana Vrbaški and Marko Dinjaški (Alice in WonderBand). Anna Llombart’s workshop on the rhythms of the Iberian Peninsula was presented by the song of the Coetus, Iberic rhythmic orchestra No voy solo no (I don’t go alone, love is my companion – in free translation), accompanied by Ben Schuetz on the square drum. With the song Se me van los pies (in translation, Look at how my feet are moving), the participants of Ben Schuetz’s workshop presented the music of Argentina and Peru, and this segment was closed by the song Samba Do Barba by Max Pollak.

New Balkan Rhythm festival concert
(8 minutes version)
New Balkan Rhythm festival concert
(3 minutes version)

We had the pleasure of having Max Pollak open the evening with a performance of one of the Afro-Cuban songs dedicated to Orisha Elegua, the deity in charge of opening paths and new beginnings. We also listened to his performance of El Cuarto De Tula (best known to us from the Buena Vista Social Club recordings), as well as a duet of tap dance and body music performance with Anna Llombart. She added the animation of the object – choreography with a rattle.

The host’s duet presentation, The Body as an Instrument of Sound, is also the PhD of sound designer and collaborator Goran Vujičin directed by Višnja Obradović.

The team of lecturers performed the songs they worked on during the residency: Ben Schuetz’s Ivan, a song inspired by a friend of the same name from Buenos Aires, choreography of Ana Llombart for song Sorteao in respect and guided by Aleix Tobias, the Iberian rhythmic orchestra Coetus founder, and the festival song New Balkan Rhythm (words and composition by Ana Vrbaški, choreography and body percussion arrangement by Marko Dinjaški).

The Workshops

Anna Lombart’s workshop focused on the rhythms of the Iberian Peninsula and the traditions that persisted in the small town of Peñaparda. She prepared agechao, a traditional rhythm, with the guidance and music of the founder of the music group Coetus, Iberian Rhythmic Orchestra, Aleix Tobias. Coetus presents traditional music in a contemporary artistic way. She also played the square drum (pandero cuadrado), traditional instrument.

There were two workshops on this topic over the course of two days, each lasting an hour and a half.

On the last day, on Sunday, Anna Llombart showed in a 45-minute workshop how, through a short choreography, body music can be taught with target groups of different ages and skill levels.

Workshops of Anna Llombart, photo by Alisa Dinjaški

Workshops of Ben Schuetz, photo by Alisa Dinjaški

It was a very inspiring, intense and heartwarming festival time. I found the teachers as well as the other participants very welcoming, open-minded and open-hearted, all together creating a strong and supportive community spirit. The town of Sremski Karlovci is a very good spot for the festival for it has a good atmosphere, everything can be reached in an easy distance and it also offers a lot of leisure activities.

Festival participant

Ben Schuetz’s workshop Rhythms of Argentina and Peru introduced the participants to the poly-rhythms of South America.

The song they covered was Se me van los pies (Look at my feet how they move). Two melodic lines and a bass line intertwines with the choreography, which at the same time form a dance and rhythmic musical background.

Apart from these rhythms, choreographies and traditional material at the workshops of Ben Schuetz during the festival we had the opportunity to explore improvisation, as one of the important tools in body music. Ben Schuetz offered ways and ideas that improvisation can be structured. Part of this were rhythmic games, which awakened children’s playfulness in the participants of the workshops.

Ben Schuetz’s workshop Rhythms of Argentina and Peru

It was a completely unique experience, learning so much about body music, but even more about so many different cultures

Participant of the workshops

Workshops of Max Pollak, photo by Alisa Dinjaški

Workshops of Alice in WonderBand, photo by Alisa Dinjaški

It was a wondrous escape into self-exploration, music, rhythm and much more. Words cannot fully describe the feeling of elation and the sense that we had traveled somewhere far.

Festival participant

At Max Pollak’s workshops, we learned his original piece Samba Do Barba.

The song and the choreography are a confluence of different influences from Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Balkan, European, North American music. The song is dedicated to Fernando Barba, the founder of the Brazilian group Barbatuques and a great inspiration to all artists in body music.

Some of the participants were at the workshops on Saturday only, so they performed after only one workshop – an hour and a half. We were thrilled that they wanted to show their knowledge at the festival concert on the same day!

Max Pollak’s workshop – The Rhythm voyage with Max

I was overwhelmed!

Workshop participant

The Irregular Rhythms of the Balkans is the name of the workshops led by Alice in WonderBand‘s members Marko Dinjaški and Ana Vrbaški.

With the idea of offering something that is well known in the Balkan region – and adding choreography and body percussion arrangement unknown to the participants – they covered the Macedonian song Jovano, Jovanke. This song is in seven eighths, characteristic odd Balkan rhythm.

During the short workshop on Sunday, they covered the rhythmic game and song they use in working with all age groups and explained different ways of incorporating movement in the group.

Lots of inspiration, discovery, deep learning, connecting and hard work.

Workshop teacher

Tours of Sremski Karlovci, boat ride on the river Danube and wine tasting on the last festival day

On the first day of the festival, the participants had the opportunity to visit part of the cultural heritage of Sremski Karlovci, important buildings such as the Seminary and the Sremski Karlovci Language Secondary School (oldest high school in Serbia) in the center of the city, with guidance organized by the festival’s partner, the Tourism Organization of the Municipality of Sremski Karlovci.

On the last day of the festival, we took a ride on the river Danube on the catamaran of Pokret gorana Vojvodine. We also tasted the wine of Veritas winery, one of the sponsors of the festival. The view from the terrace of the winery is spectacular.

The festival also showed its potential as a cultural and touristic event, which introduced international guests to the Vojvodina tradition, the Danube, the characteristic food we ate at the Four Lions Inn, as well as our proverbial hospitality.

Joyfull participants, friendly atmosphere, high level of performance skills, innovation are the main feature of the concerts in the evening.

A person from the audience

Open stage night at the New Balkan Rhythm festival

A very significant part of the result of the work of our association Open Circle Novi Sad as a promoter and educator in body music in Serbia and the region was shown at the evening of the open stage on the second day of the festival on Friday.

The participants that opened the event were children from the primary school in Sremski Karlovci and people from the working center of the special school in Novi Sad. They were participants of our workshops during this year. Body music is for all, because it is a community art.

The children are a part of the ecological body music project. They wrote the lyrics to the songs we composed music for. The songs are for their peers as well as adults, in order to help with the spread of more conscious and sustainable attitude towards local nature and ecosystem. Sremski Karlovci are municipality with agriculture and tradition of bee keeping. This message that comes from the kids helps to build awareness.

Other participants of the Open stage night were local artists like Vasilija Petrović and Aleksandar Tobdžić, and workshops participants, like Milan Zlatković from Požega and Luci Werner, from Berlin.

The residence video was recorded and edited by our volunteer, Marija Mitić. Videos of the workshops were recorded by Alisa Dinjaški, as well as photographs, and edited by Ana Vrbaški.

Partners: Tourism organization of Municipality of Sremski Karlovci, Pokret gorana Vojvodine, Primary school 23. oktobar, Special primary and secondary school Milan Petrović Novi Sad, RTV Vojvodina, 9Design, MrV production

Sponsors: Veritas Winery Sremski Karlovci * Pyramid Ing doo * CHW Instal * MIL-Gradnja 1991 DOO * devvote

Many thanks to the friends of the festival: Jadranka Beljan Balaban and Nikola Balaban, Milana Nadaški, Olgica Božinović, Milena Vrbaški, Irina Dečermić.

Thank you to the volunteers, first of all Marija Mitić and Alisa Dinjaški, for the photos, video and audio recordings and all the free time they dedicated to make the festival what it was: great!