X BLOC Reunion at The Barbican

Producer: Yad Arts

Theatre: Barbican Centre, London

Year: 2003


  • Josephine Burton - production

I got to invite Iva Bittova. And kiss her afterwards. So everything was alright with the world.

It was one of those gigs you dream about. Together with Josephine, my partner in YaD Arts, we proposed a festival of music and culture to the Barbican Centre. They said yes, and I got to invite the greatest artists I had ever met, to be in the same place at the same time.


London, England – Barbican Centre will present X-Bloc Reunion, May 23-31. It is a revolutionary mix of ethnic and urban music from the former Eastern Bloc. From wild Gypsy Balkan brass, to seductive Silk Road vocals, from Tuvan punk and Russian ska to Bulgarian voices and Czech Electronica.

Fri 23: Djivan Gasparyan / Alim Qasimov / Sergey Starostin The musical gods of Armenia and Azerbaijan perform with Russia’s leading folk singer and musician Sergey Starostin.

Sat 24: Boban Markovic & Frank London / Lajkó Félix First UK appearance by Boban Markovic, leader of Serbia’s biggest and best Gypsy brass band, plus Klezmatics trumpeter Frank London. Hungarian violinist extraordinaire Laikó Félix opens the evening.

Sun 25: Sui Vesan / Iva Bittova The Czech Republic and Slovakia are reunited for one night in the performances of two extraoridary female artists.

Sun 25: Leningrad Moscow’s hippest music export make their first ever trip to London, mixing elements of ska, punk, and jaz with a unique dissident edge.

Mon 26: Eastern Divas – Sainkho / Esma Redžepova / Sevara

A holy trinity of divas – ethereal seductive and surreal; Tuva’s Sainkho, Sereva, the new voice from Uzbekistan, and Queen of Gypsy singers Esma Redžepova.

Mon 26: Yat-Kha – Storm Over Asia Tuvan punk band Yat-Kha perform a live film soundtrack to Vsevold Pudovkin’s 1928 silent masterpiece Storm Over Asia

Thu 29: Koutev Ensemble & Theodosii Spassov Philip Koutev was the genius behinnd Le Mysèter Voix Bulgares and this group is the forerunner of that tradition and bearer of his name, today. A spectacular show performed with female choir, folk orchestra and innovative Kaval player Theodosii Spassov.

Fri 30: Mostar Sevdah Reunion & Ljiljana Buttler / Merita Halili Representing the mulit-ethnic sould of Bosnia, Mostar Sevdah Reunion perform herer with veteran Gypsy sinder Ljiljana Buttler. The show is opened by Albanian star Merita Halili.

Fri 30: Anatoly Vapirov Quintet featuring Tomasz Stanko Bulgaria-based Russian free-jazz saxophonist Anatoly Vapirov performs his imspired improsiations with his band, featuring the Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko.

Sat 31: Goran Bregović – Tolerant Heart Sarajevo-born composer Goran Bregovic’s stunning new work features his Weddings and Funerals band, an Andaulz Orchestra from Morocco, Russian choir and singers Amnia from Tunsia and Dana International from Israel.

Plus talks, workshops, films & free music and dance featuring Kharkov Klezmer Band (Ukraine), Jony Iliev (Bulgaria), Szascsavas (Transylvania), Oi Va Voi (UK), Ecstacy of St Theresa, Pavel Fajt (Czech Republic), Enver Ismailov(Ukraine), Szaszcsavas Band (Transylvania), Stepandia (Siberia), Fanfare Ciocarlia (Romania), Coxless Pair (Siberia), Amina Sound System, Naming the Golem (Hungary), Chudobah (Poland), Orkestar Agusevi (Macedonia) and the Akhatamov Dance Group (Armenia).


The idea under-lying the Barbican's X-Bloc Reunion is both simple and inspired: to pull together all the strands of the Soviet empire's indigenous musics - from the austerely traditional to the most liberated post-punk rock - and let them ferment together in a 10-day festival.

Michael Church, Independent


X-Bloc Reunion is a music festival, not a political event, but on the opening night, the volatile and often tragic history of the former Soviet states in the Caspian and Caucasus never seemed far away. It is remarkably brave - putting it mildly - for the Barbican to devote a whole series of concerts to the music of the former eastern bloc, and even more brave to kick off with a show featuring celebrities from Azerbaijan and Armenia, two now-independent countries that were in a state of undeclared war for much of the 1990s.

Robin Denselow, Guardian

  • All Posts