Jimmy the Accordionist: Subway Inspiration to Go
I dedicate this article to the memory of my loving grandma Slavka Yaromenok
Art is omnipresent
Art is omnipresent. It never remains within the confines of any hall, it is always travelling beyond, both flying away or letting you take it, to go. True art can happen anywhere. Many street musicians are following this principle by giving their art to the people, sometimes for only a smile in return.
This is what Jimmy, an accordionist from the subway under the National Palace of Culture, also does. He spreads joyful tunes and lets you take away some to go, to carry a piece of delight in your heart.
Who is Jimmy?
The real name of Jimmy, or as he never misses to point out “Jimmy Akordeon” [sic] on YouTube, is Jesus Kotsev. He is known as Lyubo too. I meet him everyday on my way to the office. What attracted my attention was his everlasting positive attitude in the way. In the mornings he fills the subway with his cheery accordion tunes.
No word mastery can describe the groovy feeling passers-by get, so accordingly we will start with a video presentation of the magnificent Jimmy.
Sometimes it’s really not about talent, but about attitude.
I took the interview with Jimmy on September, 2013. On that same day there were also two other people talking to him and showing interest in his art. Apparently he had been spotted by many. Jimmy himself is also a very communicative person. Before we started he showed me pictures of him with famous Bulgarian people.
To tell the truth, although I have prepared lots of question what I really got was some scattered answers and, to my greatest pleasure, amazing accordion improvisations, actually I got what Jimmy does best. Luckily, Jimmy also answered some of my questions. Here’s what he told me that day.
Where do you play, where can people see you?
I play with my band which consists of my father (percussion instruments), Bulgarian George Michael (clarinet) and me (accordion) [here’s an YouTube video of the three musicians, Ed.]
We play here, in the subways or in the South Park, where the pigeons sculpture is. Here at NDK in southern park with pigeons.
They say it’s the connection between the street musicians and the people who tip them money is very much like the connection between a performer on the stage who dares to “dive” in the crowd. How do you feel about this.
(Jimmy smiles and remains silent for a second) You know what? I love the natural way. See, here everybody knows me, they greet me, sometimes stop by to talk with me. I am so familiar to them, I am the boy from the subway, not just another face from the TV screen. The path is not easy, it’s a very difficult one. But I know that God helps me.
Why did you choose the accordion?
A lot of people ask me that question. Many say “nowadays young people choose other instrument, not kind of old fashioned and not so popular ones, like the accordion”. But, you know, my grandfather was a famous Bulgarian accordionist. But again, I would have never learned to play good, if it wasn’t for the street. I play 12 hours everyday, I come here at 7 a.m. and everything, absolutely everything happens on the street.
I learnt to play for two years, and no one believes me. Now that I am attending school, I study at the National School of Music Lyubomir Pipkov, I see my peers, who have practiced for years. And still, I learned only for 2 . But this is because I am here, on the street, I play for hours and try to perform in a way that will be liked by the people. In an year a plan to prove everyone that I’m the best!
You are always smiling and full of energy. Where do you get inspiration and motivation from?
I love what I do. I get inspiration from the music, from the people who listen to me.
Do people sometimes want to hear something special?
Well, I’ll tell you what I think. I think that every person has a special piece that suits them. You know, I cannot describe this with words, I will have to play it.
What song suits you?
My country, my Bulgaria [in Bulgarian: Moya Strana, Moya Balgaria, a Bulgarian song from 1970s, Ed.]
What song is your orchestra like?
Oh, it is certainly Buona sera signorina buona sera! [Jimmy starts singing, but soon stops and says he does “not want to argue with the people from the shops in the subway.”]
Please, play us something for goodbye.
Lot’s of tunes and words flew away from this post, but I hope you will find them somewhere, perhaps in the subway under the National Palace of Culture, just like I did.