Golden Festival is hidden gem

Photos by Bob Krasner
Photos by Bob Krasner

BY BOB KRASNER  |  Take a restored palatial ballroom, add more than 50 musical groups, 3,200 paying guests and plenty of food, and you’ve got the coolest music festival that you’ve probably never heard of. The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, a two-night event, recently took place at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall.

The music was from Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Bulgaria and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, played on accordions, violins, horns and ouds.


The diverse crowd, most of whom were not there for the first time, was wildly enthusiastic. They ranged from Old World refugees to Williamsburg hipsters. Or, as artist Marlene Weisman put it, “from peasant blouses to piercings.”

In addition to the main ballroom, there was music in three other rooms, with one reserved mainly for vocal music, including a haunting Bulgarian women’s choir. Dancers were everywhere, especially in the Grand Ballroom, where large groups took over the dance floor in concentric circles. Frequently, the musicians performed in the center of the dancers.


Slavic Soul Party!, a regular at the 29-year-old festival, combines Balkan brass with jazz, funk and Latin rhythms. Souren Baronian, another returnee, melds Near Eastern traditions with jazz improvisation. Ljova and the Kontraband mix Gypsy music with classical, tango and klezmer in their original compositions.

Many of the Golden Fest-goers make it an annual tradition. East Village film composer Eyal Marcovici declared, “I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”