Musical Road Trip, Part 4 - George Ezra, çifteli and more

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Musical Road Trip, Part 4 - George Ezra, çifteli and more
A streetcar crosses Budapest, Hungary. Source: Pikist.

In The New Federalist’s summer series, Juuso Järviniemi tours Europe by entering European capitals’ names in the Spotify search box. After wintry landscapes in Northern European cities, he continues the journey to Central Europe and the Balkans.

We have published three articles in the series so far. You can discover Mediterranean capitals here, visit Western European capitals here, and explore Northern Europe here.

Warsaw: Jack Harlow feat. 2forwOyNE – Warsaw (2019)

The young American rapper from Kentucky, Jack Harlow, is proud to announce that his team is “overseas out in Warsaw, stuntin’”. Any listener who expected catchy rhymes about the Copernicus Science Centre will be disappointed, though – the main focus is on sports cars, round donkeys buttocks and smoking. Not much different from our visit to Bratislava in the previous article, so I hope Jack took the time to pass by Slovakia, too. Based on his tour calendar on Bandsintown, he hasn’t had a concert in Poland yet. Maybe next summer!

Budapest: George Ezra – Budapest (2014)

George Ezra’s hit with more than 600 million plays on Spotify is the expected winner for the Hungarian capital. The British artist lists things he would give away for his lover, including his house in Budapest. In real life, the singer has no house in Budapest, but at least he has performed in the city, including at the famous Sziget Festival. If he wants to get that house and a golden grand piano to go with it, my recommendation is to do it in the next three months while he still has the right to free movement.

Ljubljana: Lescop – Ljubljana (2013)

Ljubljana is sunny in the postcards, but in the French rock artist Lescop’s song, the two lonely souls walking together are drenched in the rain at night. Seeing the city’s lights shining in front of them makes for an atmospheric moment, and the man and his escort might do it all again the next day. Love in Slovenia? The picturesque, compact city centre is worth seeing in daylight too, so here’s hoping that the couple’s relationship develops to a stage where they aren’t afraid of being seen together in public.

Zagreb: Goran Kajfeš – Zagreb (2004)

After George Ezra’s grand piano and Lescop’s middle-of-the-night walk, we were only missing a smoky jazz club. The Swedish trumpeter Goran Kajfeš takes us to his father Davor’s birthplace with an eight-minute instrumental song that stays faithful to the sombre but sophisticated mood. By the way, the Swedish football hero Zlatan Ibrahimović’s mother also hailed from Croatia, although I’d imagine Zlatan favouring more pompous and energetic music.

Sarajevo: Loz Contreras – Sarajevo (Blackmill Remix) (2011)

If Zlatan Ibrahimović is into dubstep, then he might prefer a song from his Bosnian father’s side. From jazz to electronic music, relaxing and imposing instrumental music comes in many forms, as this track made by one British DJ and remixed by another illustrates. Make sure to put this on as you’re catching an evening flight back home from Sarajevo Airport and flicking through pictures from your visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Belgrade: Battle Tapes – Belgrade (2015)

In Serbia it’s time to put on your ripped black jeans and join a sea of screaming fans with a song from the California rock band Battle Tapes. Or perhaps the youthful spirit of rebellion can be channelled into protesting, as with the “1 of 5 Million” demonstrations that Belgrade and other cities have seen since 2018. Whichever you prefer, don’t forget to wear a mask and to wash your hands!

Pristina: Faith No More – Pristina (1997)

The rock vibes turn into something heavier in Pristina, with the concluding track from the Californian band Faith No More’s last album before the group first broke up in the 1990s. Recorded in the late 1990s, and asking “Who’s going to protect you?”, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to think the song references the Yugoslav wars. Here’s to a more peaceful future, one that allows cities’ names to come to be associated with something else than war and conflict.

Podgorica: Boban Rajović – Podgorica (live, 2019)

A Belgrade-based singer of Montenegrin background, Boban Rajović enjoys a large following in former Yugoslavian countries, as the 300,000 followers on his Facebook page attest. The lyrics of the song go beyond my language skills, but the crowd sounds like they are enjoying themselves. By the way, apart from London and Dublin, this is the first capital in the entire tour that is represented by a song in the local language (detecting whether the song is in Montenegrin or perhaps Serbian also goes beyond my capacities, sorry for that!). The English name of the city being different from the local-language version serves as an excuse in some places, but in any case, the tour has been a rather British–American affair so far. Montenegro offers a welcome exception!

Tirana: AslanBeatz – Tirana (Instrumental) (2017)

The representative for Tirana may not feature Albanian lyrics, but it does include sounds from çifteli, a string instrument used in traditional Albanian music. Based on its YouTube description, the two-minute track by the German-based producer AslanBeatz is intended as a background beat for rappers. Now that the country’s EU accession negotiations started this spring, I’d like to challenge the Albanian delegation to use this beat on a rap video where they explain how the first few months of talks have been going. Bonus points if they can find something that rhymes with “acquis communautaire”.

Skopje: Leb i Sol – Skopje (1987)

As our last stop today, we visit North Macedonia with a jazzy pop song from the band Leb i Sol (‘bread and salt’). By the sound of it, the Macedonian-language song makes a playful tribute to the city. Why not go to Skopje with a few friends and some instruments, play this as a street orchestra, and watch as your hats fill with denari? Maybe that’s what we should have done during the JEF campaign bus tour in the spring of 2019.

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