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Balkan Music Festival Lands In Brooklyn

Friday and Saturday night will mark the 26th Annual Golden Festival, which celebrates the Balkan and Middle Eastern regions with plenty of music and food. The festival started out as a gig with a few Balkan brass bands playing in one room to less than a hundred people. But this year, at its new digs in south Park Slope, the Grand Prospect Hall can entertain up to 3,000 guests in four rooms. Over 60 bands are participating from across the Atlantic.

Michael Ginsberg is the festival's founder and the music director for the Zlatne Uste Blakan Brass Band. He says the best part is, well, everything. “I find myself like having A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) when I get to this festival,” Ginsberg says. “I can’t stay in one place for too long because I feel like I am missing stuff. And I’m also playing with five different groups, so I have to be aware of the time.” Plus, Ginsberg leads a dance instruction Friday night.

Saturday night’s event is the big draw for the festival. Between 6 P.M. on Saturday and 2 A.M. Sunday morning, the grand ballroom will be flooded with dancing and traditional Baltic, Arabic and Turkish music, as well as Norwegian and Italian village music.

The Providence, Rhode Island band The What Cheer? Brigade is performing, and it's not your standard traveling 19-piece brass band. Band member Susan Sakash describes her group as “an aggressive mix of Bollywood, The Balkans, New Orleans, samba and hip-hop played with the intensity of metal.”

Sakash adds that many of the bands perform right on the dance floor with the crowd. “During every performance there is at least a small group of people dancing and teaching each other the steps to the long music cycles,” she says. “You can always just jump in and participate even if you’ve never danced to this music before.”

To get in the mood for Saturday night, download The What Cheer? Brigade track "Saiyan Re Saiyan" at the top of the page.