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News 04 Aug 16

Must-See Music Festivals in August

With a host of top music festivals happening across Serbia next month, what better excuse to venture out of the capital this summer?

David Galic
Lovefest in Vrnjacka Banja is celebrating its tenth year in August. Photo: Lovefest.

As Novi Sad’s EXIT festival has come and gone for another year, it’s important to remember that while it may still be Serbia’s defining summer music festival, it’s far from the only one worth visiting.

August in particular is a fantastic time for music festivals, giving you sufficient time to recover from the Exit excesses of early July, while offering enough variety to pick and choose from.

These summer festivals also give you the chance to travel around Serbia a little and see other cities and towns beyond the country’s two biggest: Belgrade and Novi Sad, the capital of the northern Vojvodina province.

So what’s on in August?

There are four festivals in particular that are worth noting. Best of all, none of them have anything in common.

You can continue the EXIT theme of electronic music and popular Serbian rock bands by heading over to Lovefest in the central Serbian town of Vrnjacka Banja. Or you could opt to head south to Nisville, the world-class blues and jazz festival held in the city of, you guessed it, Nis.

If neither of those take your fancy, you could choose to go west and sample the famed Guca Trumpet Festival for the rather primitive fun offered by Balkan folk music and brass band competitions.

And if none of that interests you, there’s always the Gitarijada Festival in the eastern Serbian town of Zajecar, that’s perfect for hard rockers of all ages.

Lovefest in Vrnjacka Banja is celebrating its tenth year and will take place between Thursday, August 4 and Saturday, August 6. Outside the three-day Lovefest, Vrnjacka Banja is not exactly synonymous with loud music and festival crowds as it is a spa town that many visit for therapeutic reasons or to enjoy the peaceful nature of this community and its surroundings.

There are three stages at the festival.

The Fire Stage hosts both foreign and domestic DJs. This year’s line-up includes German producer and DJ Sven Vath and Ben Klock, one of the leaders of Berlin’s modern techno movement.

The Live Stage will host popular regional rock and hip-hop acts, including Bosnian rapper Edo Majka, the “Montenegrin Frank Zappa” Rambo Amadeus, legendary Serbian rockers Partibrejkersi and many more.

There’s also the H2O stage, which takes place beside an open pool, where festival-goers can catch some rays during the day, recover from the night before and gear up for another night of music.

“The festival was created because of the need to show that central Serbia, not just Belgrade, has young and talented people who create music and other types of art,” Zlatana Pavlovic, the festival director, told the Tanjug news agency in July.

She added that the number of foreign visitors to the festival is growing every year and that a total of 70,000 people attended last year’s Lovefest.

Pavlovic said that while Vrnjacka Banja residents were a bit apprehensive about the festival when it began, everyone is now coming round to it.

And little wonder, considering the festival brought profits of three million euros to the small town over the course of three days last year alone.

The Nisville Jazz Festival is in its 22nd year and will be held from Thursday, August 11 to Sunday, August 14. According to festival officials, visitors can expect to see a total of 110 performances on 11 different stages over the course of the four-day event.

Headlining the festival this year will be British soul diva Joss Stone, who will be closing the festival on August 14.

Once again, the line-up is astonishing, given it is filled with a bunch of big names from the jazz, blues and soul music world and takes place in southern Serbia. Fusion guitar legend Al Di Meola will grace the stage this year, as well as saxophonist Bill Evans, the Cyrus Chestnut Trio and funk-jazz hybrids Shakatak. The festival is very international in nature and will host performers from more than 20 countries.

If you’d like a more visceral experience between Thursday, August 11 and Saturday, August 13, head over to the famed Guca Festival, which foreigners have been raving about for years as being a one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found in Serbia.

As is the case every year, the focus will be Balkan folk music played by the best brass bands from around the world. However, festival organisers have taken things up a notch this year by adding some of the biggest names in regional folk music to the line-up. To that end, Svetlana “Ceca” Raznatovic - probably the most popular Serbian folk singer of all time – and Severina, who is pretty much her Croatian equivalent, will be performing at Guca this year.

But if you’d rather just rock out, head over to Zajecar, where the Gitarijada festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary with legendary British hard rockers Uriah Heep headlining and a slew of the region’s most popular rock bands rounding out the line-up.

So no matter what type of music you like, there’s a festival made for you in Serbia this August, all of which provides you with the perfect opportunity to take a break from the hot Belgrade concrete and soak up some new experiences away from the capital.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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