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news 01 Jun 17

Bulgaria's 'Rock 'n Roll' Capital Falls Silent

The new Socialist bosses of the coastal town of Kavarna - famous as Bulgaria’s rock 'n roll capital - are accused of trying to erase its image as a musical hub.

Maria Cheresheva
Rock fans at the Kavarna Rock Fest. Photo: Catalina Movileanu/Flickr

Visitors randomly passing through Kavarna – a town of less than 12,000 inhabitants on the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast – are probably amused to see the huge murals of musical rock legends such as Ronny James Dio, Billy Idol, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and many others - painted on the walls of the town’s typical communist-style blocks of flats.

Over the past 15 уеаrs, Kavarna, once a gloomy provincial town, has gained a name as Bulgaria’s rock capital, due to the passion of its ex-mayor and metalhead, Tsonko Tsonkov.

Since Tsonkov stepped down in 2015 and was succeeded by the Socialist-backed new mayor, Nina Stavreva, fears have grown that the town is dumping its alternative image, however.

Alice Cooper mural in Kavarna. Photo: Tom Robertson/Flickr

The first bad news for rock fans came on March 25 when it was announced that 2017 will be the first year that Kavarna will not host its annual Kavarna Rock Fest, which has been running since 2006.

On Wednesday, the municipality delivered another blow to Tsonkov’s legacy, announcing a tender for the mayor’s legendary company car, signed by a number of world-famous rock musicians who have visited Kavarna.

The news caused a storm on social networks, where fans accused Stavreva of trying to erase the rock image of Kavarna.

“This is totally insane. Hardly anyone associates Kavarna with anything else instead of rock music. And now this is being destroyed,” Vlado Yonchev, editor-in-chief of news website Offnews.bg, who has long contributed to rock events in Kavarna, told BIRN.

“From one small,  rundown city, it turned into a rock capital. Why would anyone go to Kavarna for anything else instead of music?” he asked.

Kavarna’s image was transformed by the annual Kaliakra Rock Fest, later renamed Kavarna Rock Fest, organized every summer since 2006 on Tsonkov’s initiative.

Rock band Accept performing at Kavarna Rock Fest. Photo: glowingforest/flickr

It brought rock and metal legends to town such as Manowar, Motorhead, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Dio, Motley Crue and many others, as well as hundreds of thousands of rock fans.

Five months after Ronny James Dio, Black Sabbath’s ex-frontman passed away in 2010, Kavarna made history by unveiling his one and only sculpture, located in the city’s main park.

Other musical initiatives followed the success of the summer fest, such as the annual New Year Rock Concerts - cancelled by the new administration in 2015 due to lack of funds.

In July 2016, municipal authorities removed all the posters from past rock concerts that Tsonkov had placed on the external facade of the sports hall, explaining that were put there without permission.

Tsonkov, who is currently an independent municipal councillor in Kavarna, told BIRN that “that the happy story is heading to a bad end”.

He saw a spirit of revanchism in the latest actions of the municipality, adding that the authorities “believe that by erasing history, they will make people forget”.

Mayor Nina Stavreva told Darik Radio on Wednesday that the summer rock festival had not been closed down - but is not taking place in 2017 because no organizer has been found.

She promised to be “open for dialogue and cooperation” with anyone who would like to support the initiative.

She dismissed accusations that she has not kept promises to preserve the cultural life in the city, explaining that it was now organized “in line with the interests of the local community”.

Instead of the rock fest, the municipality will hold a new initiative “BG Fest” with Bulgarian performers, as well as Days of Russian Culture - provoking jokes that “Каvarna is swapping rock for Kazachok [Russian folk dance]”.

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