Misho Yosiffov: The Big Brass Theory
What was the path from Street Boys, your 90’s band to Brazzobrazzie?
Performing on the streets… That was еnourmous fun! The 90s , especially in the beginning, on one hand it wasn’t the best time to live in [the year 1989 was the formal end of Communist rule in Bulgaria] and on the other, we were filled with a wonderful positive feeling, everybody was happy that this communism fell, that now everything was gonna be awesome. People had faith, they were optimistic and thought things will head in a good direction. The spirits were high.
People had the “brass” to change…
Yeah, and when we got out on the streets, we captured this same spirit and this helped us tremendously.
How did you decide to start performing, just like that, on Vitosha Boulevard?
There were senior students from the musical school that is the previous generation, including Georgi Kornazov, Acho Zaberski and others. We saw that they were playing on the streets, at Crystal [a famous place in downtown Sofia], and we were immensely impressed and eager to do that same thing.
So we started too. Initially I was performing with only one drummer – Nasko Popov and several other guys, rotating.Thus several bands formed. The performers in our band changed often and there wasn’t a fixed count of the musicians participating. Vlado Karparov, Georgi Kornazov, Kiril Makedonski – they all were performing with us.
That was a brass band, in other words.
Not only, We had a rhythm section, drums, keyboards, we used the various clubs nearby for power supply :-) We were so good that back then the trams running along Vitosha couldn’t pass because of the crowds we gathers. We’ve had days when the moment we start to play, an enormous audience surrounded us and wouldn’t leave. We even developed a business gut feeling, thinking “now, these people have been listening for more than 15 minutes, the already gave their money, they wouldn’t do that one more time” and we would make a pause :-)
I have wonderful memories from these times. This was the time when I first saw, as a musician, how you can influence people or may not. Somehow you have a primordial feeling when you play bad and nobody stops. And then when you start playing good, people flock.
How do you tell whether you are good or bad?
The magic of your performance, of the music, largely boils down to whether the musician or the performer believes in herself/himself and sounds or looks motivated. In a good humor. In that case people start to believe you. Many don’t have the in-depth knowledge to tell whether you are great, but somehow, people sense whether you are being authentic and also whether you like what you do.
How cool a tip I just got! Thanks :)
Welcome. Now you owe me 5.40 BGN :)
Jazz as the music of the Class Enemy
Why did you choose jazz?
Well, because we really liked this kind of expression, me and my fellow musicians, and when we played on the streets it was really cool. Besides, at that time jazz was a banned music, it was the music of the class enemy.
But I’ve heard that at that times there was a lot of jazz in the restaurants, it was not forbidden.
There was this directive from the communist party which, I’m not cannot citing exactly, regulated the percent of various music that is to be played in the restaurants. There were quotes for the type of music that should be played – Bulgarian, Russian, “other”. And this “other” was relatively a very tiny part. However when I have talked to elder colleagues nobody stuck precisely to these quotes. I know a person who was a conductor of a the Sofia restaurant orchestra and in his words he and his wife have spent hours on end during the night inventing Russian titles of American songs. They’ve invented composers too :)
So there was no one to check what music they played?
Well, at that time the information was very scarce. Now you can check and read whatever you want, but then there was this big information blackout. Very few people actually had specific information, especially in the early years of communism. There was this big ban. Many jazz people were put in camps. Lea Ivanova, for example, has a touching story as a jazz singer. She wasn’t able to succeed here with this genre and she becomes a star in Germany, and many of her songs are recorded there.
So to get back to our story, when the communist regime fell, we went out to play jazz, we were one of the manifestations of freedom, playing that music without being disturbed.
Today, is there something that can disturb again?
On a global scale this profession is in decline.
But you said that you have plenty of work.
Yes, we do. It’s more of a stubbornness for me, I wanted to prove to myself that I can do what I love and make living of it. There’s work, the thing is to do it the right way, to produce something of high quality. At the end of the day, when a person tries strives for quality, people like his/her work and promote it, just because they really enjoy it.
Maxim Eshkenazy (ed. Bulgarian conductor, festival director of Fortissimo Fest) does something similar with classical music. I am very fond of such initiatives that promote the profession of the musician. Because electronic music and electronic music technology at one point deeply impressed people and they turned away from acoustic music.
However, I think acoustic music has a charm that is very appealing and in the same time very different from electronic, music, or in general from the recorded music. Live performances bring in a totally different feeling. This is music created by real people who are there, right now, with all their emotions from what has happened during the day, with all their experiences etc. I find the music that brings the nature and the temperament of the people performing it inspiring.
Jazz as a dialogue
I tried to play with a DJ, but I couldn’t get used to the fact that he plays something and then waits for the other part to play, while at the same time I am actively present, reacting and expressing my emotions. I felt like I don’t want to “talk” with something that has its ready answers to my current, present, arising every minute questions.
Art is a dialogue between those who make it and on the other hand those who perceive and experience it. Live music’s magic is irreplaceable, it is a dialogue, here and now, where everyone (both the audience and the musicians) brings in their emotions from the present day or moment.
On a nice concert one can forget where you are and that’s magical. Soul food. The more of it, the better…
Thanks Misho Yosiffov for being so cool and true!