“You might want to change your shoes,” a friend said to me.
I looked down at my ballerina flat clad toes. “Combat boots then?”
She nodded. “Combat boots. Have you never been to Balkanarama before?” Seeing me shake my head, she continued, “The dancing is a bit like being in a mosh pit.”
Despite my (joking) claims that I was a punk in a former life (can’t help it, I have a soft spot for ’70s punk music) , pogoing and moshing have been two styles of dancing I’ve never been particularly keen to try. Needless to say, that’s exactly what I was going to attempt, I just didn’t know it at the time.
Balkanarama is a popular club night in Edinburgh. It features, surprise, Balkan music, both live and DJed. I hadn’t listened to Balkan music at all prior to Thursday night, when I ran into two-thirds of Bobok serenading my friends. When I got a text from another friend suggesting that we go on Saturday, I was completely on board.
What I found at Studio 24 (an independent club just off of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile) was not what I expected–in a good way. I had no idea what would be waiting for me, not only where the club was (we got ever so slightly lost, ending up on Calton Hill and looking down on the club rather than standing right by it), but what it would be like inside. Two floors, of which I only made to the first; reasonably priced beer (a can of Red Stripe for £3); some seats near the bar, and a pulsing pit of dancers in front of a live music stage.
I took a swig of my beer and looked to my friend. We both looked to the pit, to each other, and nodded. The loud, blistering sound of violin, accordion, trumpet and percussion greeted us, along with the undulating mass of bodies and reek of sweat. The pit was sweaty, smelly and alive.
Alive sums up Balkanarama. There’s something about bouncing up and down to energetic music, bumping into those around you, somehow ending up right by the stage, dancing like a madman and being knocked against the metal railing. Something wonderful, endorphin-inducing. I had a massive smile on my face even when we left, sometime after the band Smash Kafana left the stage.
As we wandered home, we said, ‘why on earth had we not gone there before?’
I’ll surely be at Balkanarama in coming months, still in my combat boots.