Well. It was lots of things. I've been putting off writing about this for a few days—there have been a lot of things to process about it all. It's left me sure about my craft/art, but unsure about where I want to be. So I think this is a story that will filter out into other things—tumble into other writings. So please excuse me if this ends abruptly.
I think I'll start with describing Skopje quickly. There are certain things that are easy to find out about Macedonia from the Internet: so it's almost boring to state the economic précis given by most sites is borne out by seeing the unfinished buildings, roads, and other signs of people who are not looked after surrounded by things that are not looked after. In many ways it reminded me of Jamaica—not the nice posh hotel areas, you understand; just the bits where real people live. What this usually means is that you see some irritated, stressed people about, some who will have no chance of travelling and experiencing different cultures, who won't understand you. This didn't get seen as racism by me in Jamaica, because we're all the same colour: but I was wrong enough to see it as such in Skopje for the first few days. But they are not and I was not being fair to people who only get their knowledge of black people from rap "stars" on television. I could write more on this, but I think you get my point. U.S. cultural imperialism, misuse of capitalism, market forces, and so on.
But let us not dwell on the sad bits. Skopje is encircled by gently undulating fog-topped hills: I didn't get chance to see more of Macedonia, but a quick trip to Veles on my last day was enough; I was in a beautiful country, with wonderful people.
I'm going to talk a bit about what I did out there. It was great for me in that sense—I was able to be totally honest and open there, more so than I have been before [with the exception of working with Josh and Dave]. My first concert was packed and very well received. It is sometimes a strain playing from the heart in the U.K.—there are certain places where you cannot express things and they stay hidden. Not so there. I felt totally free and was so. The second gig was totally different: I rounded up the superb saxophonist Diego Cofone, Danilo Loiacono, Nolwenn Donnet–Descartes from IfIfBetween, the Greg Felton Trio, Fidl, and Branko Ilievski to play around the space of the museum while I conducted them. It was a lovely feeling, seeing a group of people who hadn't met working together and an experience the audience seemed to really appreciate. I met lots of other good musicians too and other artists too. And lots of local people who were passionate about culture, fun to hang out with, and open.
So it was good, and I've come back, but I am now unsettled about here. I'm not really getting into all of this now, but it's fair to say that Skopje affected me quite deeply.