Balkan brass band Uska Kan Orkestar perform at Woodfork Folk Festival despite visa dramas
Latest News | January 2, 2016
PHOTO: Macedonian musician Usain Kanturovski and The Uska Kan Orkestar performing in the Pineapple Lounge at the Woodford Folk Festival. (ABC Sunshine Coast: Lisa Clarke)
One of the world's most popular Balkan brass bands nearly did not make it to the Woodford Folk Festival this year after several members of the group almost missed out on having their visas approved.
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By Lisa Clarke
Uska Kan Orkestar played a long-awaited performance at Woodford Folk Festival this year, almost four decades in the making.
Sunshine Coast musician and instrument maker Linsey Pollak was crucial in organising the group's first trip to Australia.
Mr Pollak first met members of Uska Kan Orkestar on a trip to Macedonia 37 years ago, and was immediately inspired by their music.
"Two years ago I reconnected with them," Mr Pollak said.
"I went and visited [twice] and I thought 'wouldn't it be great to bring them across and approach the Woodford Folk Festival?'
"In a rather wonderful way, [the Festival] agreed to bring the musicians across.
"They're very exceptional musicians."
The group is regarded as one of the world's best Balkan brass bands, with two wins at the prestigious Guča Festival in Serbia.
Hailing from the small country town of Berovo in Macedonia, near the Bulgarian border, the group of musicians are Romani people from four separate families.
Their music is oral traditional, passed down from father to son
Visa process was a close call
However, the renowned brass band almost did not get to play their long-awaited show after several members of the group nearly missed out on having their visas approved.
Plans were stalled when the group came up against difficulties in the application process.
Seven of the 12 band members were initially approved to come into the country to perform at the festival.
To their relief, the entire ensemble found out two weeks before the festival opening that they were all approved to enter Australia and perform.
"It was a matter of some of the visas being approved at the very last minute, so we just weren't sure whether they were going to be able to come or not," Mr Pollak said.
Lead musician Usain Kanturovski said he could not be happier that everything finally came together and his band had been able to entertain the thousands of people at the Woodford Folk Festival.
"I absolutely love it here, it's very beautiful and I'm so happy to be here," Mr Kanturovski said through an interpreter.
He said the band was surprised when they arrived, thinking Australia would be more like the small towns they were used to in Europe.
"I've never seen anything like Australia in my life. It's the most amazing country on the planet," Mr Kanturovski said.
"A lot of European bands can never make it to Australia, so I'm so thankful to Lindsey for being able to get us here, because now we'll be able to talk about it to everybody in Europe.
"Now that we've come to Australia, we feel like we've seen everything.
"A huge thank you to everyone for organising everything because it's been a fantastic experience for us."