South Eastern European Music Exhibition 2006 in Sofia

Bulgaria's capital Sofia became a hub of excitement for 4 days (from 18th-21st May) as a new music conference came into fruition. The South Eastern European Music Exhibition (Or SEEME for short) has been set up by a handful of individuals who recognise the developing scene and want to create a fully functioning industry throughout Eastern Europe.

The venue for the conference day programme was the Central Military Club, which is an imposing building that reflects the city's past architecture. This was something of treat, with speeches taking place in grand ornate ballrooms, complete with marble staircases and spacious balcony where people could meet and enjoy the 30 degree sunshine. Next door was a large open air restaurant and café that had a great vibe and became an unofficial meeting point for all those taking part.

The exhibition had an impressive selection of panels designed to give advice to the local DJs, industry professionals and to encourage future key players. The panellists felt they got a great deal from the event too, as there were able to talk to the participants and learn about the local scene and build new business partnerships.

Key speakers from the Uks music industry included Pete Harris, founder and MD of Kickin' Music, Jody Sharp co-label manager of Alternative Route with Desyn Massielo. Max Bloom of Concept Music, Paul Clarke of DJ Mag and Roy Marsh of KLP. They spoke on topics such as 'The Future of Dance Music', 'The Role of VJ's', 'How to set up and run a label', 'Marketing Dance Music', 'Music and the internet', 'Make a Deal in the Record Business', 'How to attract Sponsors', 'New Technologies and Music', and many more.

"SEEME in Sofia was one of the most organised and well planned events I have ever attended, with the conference covering every genre of music and topic imaginable!" enthused Jody Sharp. "The parties were diverse and both fun and educational as well as being extremely upfront in their musical taste, with a wide scope of DJ's and fantastic clubs full of warm friendly people."

There was also a fantastic Abelton Live exhibition and demo, supplied by DJ J-me who has worked with the likes of Orbital and Hybrid. Stands were held by DJ Mag, Apple and Nova Radio in the exhibition room and there were also displays and demo's by local DJ's including Ivailo Chichanov, DJ Drummer and Mekonin.

The evening programme did not disappoint and had something for everyone. Chervilo the most well know club in Sofia and is an intimate club for a few hundred people. It was dark but not moody, and housed parties by French label Babylon Records, Ibiza's DJ Gee and Kosmas Epsilon from Greece. Wesley Snips was also in town shooting a film and happily partied the night away. Chervilo is like something out of Alice in Wonderland in parts. I asked for the toilets and was told to "go down the mirrored corridor, turn left and there's a door hidden in the wall." Genius! (And it did take me a few attempts actually find them!) There was also randomly places baths with running showers and a second room that was a total contrast to the main, all white and soft padded seats dug out of the wall created a comfortable playground!

The Black Label Whisky Bar, is just as it sounds - an intimate lounge where American singers Barbara Tucker, Georgie Porgie, Joi Cardwell and Keith Thompson supplied their sublime vocals for a more relaxed start to the nights entertainment.

Festivala Hall was the home for the main events - a huge disused sports arena just outside the centre of town. Parties here were spread over three nights and electronic music was explored with Drum & Bass, Techno, Breaks and House all being played. Friday saw Killa Kella, Pendulum, Skibadee and Shabba do their thing. Saturday was Techno all the way with Marco Carola, Mistress Barbara, DJ Balthazar and local talent DJ Steven (something of a local celeb Steven has been voted Bulgaria's best DJ in 1993, 1994, 1997 and 2002.) The finale was Saturday with James Zabiela, Lee Burridge, SLAM, John Askew and Jessen Petrov back to back with DJ Steven. The 6,000 capacity venue was filled with a knowledgeable friendly crowd, dressed up in mad outfits, wigs, masks and glasses usually reserved for the likes of DC10.

The scene is still fairly unstructured in Bulgaria so the clubs often operate a policy of "if the people are still dancing, we'll stay open." This makes for perfect and frequent after parties! Seeme produced one of legendary status when James Zabiela and Lee Burridge showed up at Chervilo unannounced and played a 4 hour back to back set until 11am! It ended with James lying behind the DJ booth applauding the crowd using his legs! Says James Zabiela "SeeMe was awesome and exceeded my expectations... So many up for it people, they made this a great thing to be a part of and I hope to come to back to Bulgaria, fantastic."

The locals in Sofia are genuinely excited by the strengthening of dance music in the area. They love to party and have a positive and mischievous nature that's infectious. The turn out in numbers shows just how much potential there is in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe in general. After four days (and nights!) of being in Sofia for SEEME it's clear to see there is an immense amount passion and interest for electronic music. The people are keen to learn, everywhere you go you'll hear dance music from the cabs to the cafes and the upmarket hotel lobbies!

For anyone ever feeling like they've missed out by not being part of the acid house explosion then this is your chance to be at the start of something big. Bulgaria really does have an exciting scene bubbling under and with the right tools and a bit of luck it will explode before our very eyes.

The level of professionalism and hospitality shown by the SEEME organisers was second to none and it makes me hope that the scene kicks off in a big way for them, for the sake of the progression of dance music as a whole as much for the scene in Eastern Europe.

Said Maria from SEEME; "It is worth working hard for 10 months just to see the satisfied participants at the end of the day... I am sure that this is just the beginning of a great annual gathering of the people from the music industry from around the world. Bulgaria is a new destination and it is developing very quickly, so better watch out and don't miss any opportunity to get involved in this process... I believe that all guests, artists and participants of SEEME have experienced something new and exciting - so COME 2 SEEME AGAIN NEXT YEAR!"

Well who can argue with that!

South Eastern European Music Exhibition 2006 in Sofia

June 20, 2006 at 1:16 PM CEST

Comments on this article: