To pull each other ahead - the future of the Eastern Bloc

To pull each other ahead - the future of the Eastern Bloc

(The original article was written by Roland Balogh on

More could be achieved in just two days, than with twenty years of display diplomacy. The first Central European music conference, the Budapest Showcase Hub was like this. We asked seven bands, where the breakout points could be.

Developing North-South energy and infrastructure corridors, land and railway transport, and of course cooperation in any quantity! Familiar political catchwords. The V4 doesn’t have one meeting where they wouldn’t talk about, how important the Central European cooperation is.

Compared to this, an average resident of a regional country doesn’t know more about the neighbours, than a quarter of a century earlier, that is at best knows a cozy little pub across the border. And while gastronomically more or less they get the picture, to say a band that is trying to break out  from another Central European country is almost impossible.

The Budapest Showcase Hub (BuSH) was trying to help with this, and if we would have one word to describe the whole thing, we would say: finally! Two days seem to worth more than twenty years of display diplomacy. However it is important to note, that the Cseh Tamás Program (CSTP), operated by the National Culture Fund felt the significance of the occasion, and sponsored the event with 5 million Forints.

BuSH really brought together the representatives of the branch: we could get to know a lot of exciting “competitors”, and a lot of music industry professionals could get the picture, where exactly Central Europe stands. And certainly it’s important to pull up one’s socks, because next to the past year’s promising Hungarian productions there are professional regional formations too, which can cope with the international milieu.

The event accompanied by a conference was also good to estimate, who, where stands exactly, what kind of opportunities there are at home, and internationally. How much the beginners and rising stars have to fight, to feel at least a bit like the fellow born in the west. We sat down with seven bands to speak about this. The Romanian Otherside, the Ukrainian Sinoptik, the Polish Coals, the Slovenian Koala Voice, the Estonian I Wear Experiment, the also Estonian Argo Vals and the Bulgarian Dena answered to our questions. We were trying to choose from fourteen countries’ 27 bands, in terms of style, region and career to get a more varied picture.

Although in the recent years everyone feels, that something has started - seems like more and more people began to be interested in new sounds and music - the problems are similar. For example the background work and network of management, apart from some more committed places, are still not built up properly, as well the meaningful, unique press releases, and normal, not copy-paste articles are not typical. The situation is similar with other radio, and TV possibilities, of course there are big differences in each country.

It’s interesting while in Hungary before the commercial conversion of MR2 Petőfi Radio, on the public service line you could hear new and fresh music, while in Slovenia the alternative scene gets more publicity on the commercial radio stations.

And while in Estonia it is easier to build contacts with the press, in Romania or in Ukraine it’s very tough.

Lazy press, total self management

As the members of the Ukrainian Sinoptik told us, it’s no use to look for the music magazines, news portals, there is hardly one that responds to these e-mails. The story of the crazy stadium rock playing band is the most adventurous, since the band two years ago left the Eastern-Ukrainian Donbas to go on a tour, and because of the escalation of conflicts, they didn’t return.

Since then, the members of the Kiev based band noted that because of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, the Russian affiliated bands left to the east, and therefore a very exciting development process started in the country, maybe with more opportunities for the beginners and new styles. The advancement is very difficult, since there is no management behind their back, they have to do, organize everything on their own.

The Romanian Otherside, who gave the festival’s most suggestive concert is in similar position. The indie mixed with electronic and R’n’B playing trio from Bucharest is also on it’s own, they also received more attention from the west, eventually from America, than from their home. They don’t need to worry, they could smoothly fit into any big Hungarian festival, and if I were in the organizers place, I would reserve them already for next summer.

Scandinavia will be good

It’s worth to pay attention also to the career of Coals. It is one thing that Katarzyna Kowalczyk and Lukasz Rozmyslowski are very young, they just left their twenties, but with their visionary diction, they can charm everyone.

The duo from the Silesian coal mining region talked about, that in Poland - where the center of music is not the capital, Warsaw, but for example Poznan or Katowice - also exists a similar supporting system to CSTP for musicians, as Argo Vals said the same thing for Estonia.

They were participating this year on the Icelandic Airwaves Music Festival, which is pretty cool, but as they said they are happy if they get any foreign invitations at all, they haven’t received any reward for that. For the purpose of their music, Scandinavia as a target is not a surprise, there is this kind of messianic, mystic mood, that they bring. Nevertheless, they consider funny that their manager prefers foreign trips against inland.

They pull each other ahead

As for the audience and community organization, Koala Voice talked about an especially sympathetic thing: In Slovenia the beginner bands help each other to pull themselves forward. They organize tours, where one or the other band invites someone from the emerging scene.

The members of the band who did the first Budapest concert of their existence, feel that in the recent years, underground made a motion, and they are standing in front of exciting things.

Just like the Estonian trio, I Wear Experiment, which is just starting to grow out of it’s country: after the Baltic and the current European tour, they will go on a tour in Asia among others. As they said, however, it’s not their target.

To say a metaphor from football: it’s good to have a tough core. The band returns to Budapest on Tuesday, 22 November, to play in GMK, with Fubarite and Twentees.