Inevitably we had first to endure the overdressed male and female presenters whose unnecessary task was to whip up the audience. They exhibited an overenthusiasm that betrayed a lack of inner conviction – even when it came to plugging their sponsors. What better way to accompany a meal of Krasi Mayonaise than with a bottle of Hisar water? Come on applaud the sponsors please!
However it was heartening in these Dogan days to see an audience going wild over a succession of Bulgarian Turkish and Gypsy musicians all described as Bulgarian virtuosos and playing an increasingly complex mixture of Balkan folk and free form jazz.
The sound balance in the Burgas summer theatre were not good and the first group featured a duel between effect looped clarinet and electrified violin where shrill screeching at the top register had Annie and me pressing tissue paper into our ears. Orfei played for over an hour with little variation and relentless speed. I began to worry that the headline band would inevitably have their playing time cut.
One hour and ten minutes later, men in pink shirts and virgin white trousers appeared on stage and led by a constantly grinning accordeonist began their set. Atanas Stoev’s’s Kanarite featured a subtle combination of clarinet/gaida with saxophone and kaval, where variation of tone and pace showcased the brilliance of the musicians and the three singers.
At last at thirty minutes after midnight, some ageing musicians shuffled onto the stage and the man we had all come to see peered out into the gloom with the puzzled air of someone out way past his bedtime.. “It’s getting very late” was his comment and he got a roar of sympathetic applause from all the pensioners.
His band played for two hours of tight brilliance, driven by anger at the inadequacies of the sound system that had Ibrahim hurling a water bottle into the wings and the white haired accordeonist Neshev in constant sign dialogue with the engineers at the lip of the stage.
The problems drove the band to ever higher circles of creativity culminating in a breathtaking drum solo from Michailov where Ibrahim seemed to threaten to break his clarinet on the cymbals like some latter day Jimi Hendrix.
Returning home, I pinched myself again. Yes I had at last seen Ivo Papazov live. Like many wonders of the world, the experience had exceeded my already high expectations.