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Skopje Jazz Festival, October 20-24, 2011

In Macedonia, jazz matters more

Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and George Lewis at Skopje Jazz Festival, Oct. 2011
Miroslav Vitous, Skopje Jazz Festival, Oct. 2011
Pat Metheny, Bill Stewart, Larry Grenadier, Skopje Jazz Festival, Oct. 2011
Vijay Iyer, Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore, Skopje Jazz Festival, Oct. 2011

From the air, no place looks like the western Balkans. Flying in to Skopje, Macedonia from Zagreb, Croatia, you pass over Montenegro and Kosovo. The gray and black mountains below look like an alien planet. You cannot imagine that those sheer cliffs and dark valleys are inhabited. Then you notice the tiny silver squares along the rivers and clustered in the valleys, glinting in the sunshine. People live there.

Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, also has its own look. An earthquake destroyed most of the city in 1963, and it was rebuilt in gray Communist concrete. But the old stone bridge over the Vardar River, off the main town square, is pretty. The bridge takes you to Čaršija, the Old Bazaar, which was spared by the earthquake. Narrow cobbled streets twist among mosques, Orthodox churches, jewelry shops selling “gypsy gold,” and kebab joints.

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Originally Published