Bansko Jazz Fest: From a Weird Sounding Idea to a World-Renowned Forum

Bansko’s cultural calendar is very busy throughout the year with national and international competitions, festivals, theatrical, cinema, thematic evenings, etc. There is a ballet festival, hip hop, Balkan music, opera festival, ethno and popular contemporary music.

Bansko offers all genres of music and stage art. These cultural events gather thousands of fans from Bulgaria and abroad outside the traditional Bansko summer and winter holiday packages.

The pearl in the crown of Bansko’s cultural events calendar though remains the International Jazz Festival.

Jazz Fest Bansko

Jazz Fest Bansko

A Festival With a Rich Tradition

The International Jazz Festival in Bansko is held annually and takes place at the same time in August – starting on the 8th and continuing until the 13th. It is the largest summer musical event not only in Bansko and Bulgaria but also on the Balkan Peninsula.

The festival has a rich tradition and is world renowned among specialists, performers and fans. This year it’s celebrating an anniversary as its 20th edition will be held.

The accommodation conditions of the audience during the festival days are varied – from guest houses to luxury five-star hotels such as Lucky Bansko Spa & Relax. This allows for a diverse audience to stay throughout the week and enjoy all jazz performances.

VIP Presidential Suite at Lucky Bansko SPA & Relax

The alpine style of the VIP Presidential Suite at Lucky Bansko SPA & Relax – the luxury hotel where most of the Bansko Jazz Fest musicians stay

Those who choose to stay at Lucky Bansko Spa & Relax, should save the time from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for a “jam session” of lectures, hosted by Toma Sprostranov (the programme presenter of the festival) who every year during the Jazz Fest presents the historical roots of jazz in the cosy atmosphere of one of the conference halls of Lucky Bansko hotel.

Bansko Jazz Fest: From a Little Weird Sounding Idea to a World-Renowned Jazz Forum

Bansko Jazz Fest was founded in 1998. It brings together the different movements of the genre – from its roots to the contemporary creative pursuits of “free music”.

The history of the festival is surprisingly interesting. Its founder and organizer is a doctor – a dermatologist practicing acupuncture – Emil Iliev.

In the 1990s, Dr. Iliev opened a clinic near Bansko and as part of the therapy he decided to use music to make patients feel more comfortable. He started with jazz – the music he liked – by inviting famous Bulgarian performers. The effect was very good, the program grew and in 1998 the Bansko Jazz Festival was born.

Dr. Iliev managed to convince the then mayor of Bansko that it would be a long-term beneficial to have a jazz festival with international participation. This sounded a little weird then but today the festival is a world forum.

A Week of Amazing Star Performances From the Free Music of Jazz

The concerts of the festival jazz week in Bansko are free as the festival is held with the support of sponsors. Bansko Municipality has joined its funding in 2008 and has become a major sponsor over the years.

The concerts during the evening are on an open-air stage at Vaptsarov square in the center of Bansko where thousands of people gather. During the day, jazz performers and bands perform on open-air scenes in resorts; there are performances also in restaurants that are spacious enough.

The festival has also a separate ethno section. It is of different nature but it is included with many attractive performances, the styles are interesting to the audience which accepts them warmly. There are, for example, groups from Indonesia, Egypt, and others.

The Line-up

Bansko Jazz Fest is usually opened by the Big Band of the National Radio. Overall, over the years, more than 30 major orchestras have participated including part of the NATO official orchestra. The formations of Georgi Borisov, Villa Kazasyan, Angel Zaberski, orchestras from Austria, Germany and others have also been here.

Some the world stars of jazz who have played at the Bansko festivals were from the USA, Germany, Egypt, Russia, the Netherlands, England, Switzerland, France, Poland, Hungary and Canada. Of course there are also many well-known names from abroad but we can mention some of them like Scott Hamilton, Freddy Cole, Yehya Khalil, Oleg Kireev, Candy Dulfer, Silvan Zingg, Claire Teal, Sharl Papazov, Axel Zwingenberger, Philip Catherine, etc.

Of course, here are also all the famous jazz performers from Bulgaria. Among them are Yıldız İbrahimova, Vasil Petrov, Antony Donchev, Teodosiy Spasov, Simeon Shterev, Kameliya Todorova, Milcho Leviev, Pepi Slavov Senior, Lyudmil Georgiev, and many others, including young rising stars.

For the 2017 Line-up at Bansko Jazz Festival 2017  browse the Bansko Jazz Fest Program

This week of amazing star performances from the free music of jazz creates a unique atmosphere in Bansko. It becomes a spring of creative inspiration, lightness and wonderful memories.