The End of the Journey or is It?

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hello, dear readers! As you all know this blog is part of my Multimedia Journalism Class and since the semester is over it’s time to see what I’ve learned so far.

This experience, I should say was demanding, but when I look back now it was really worthwhile. The question of my blog is “What can we find beyond the mainstream?”, but there were many other questions that I was able to answer to myself.

I learned how time consuming blogging can actually be. Taking interviews, writing posts, shooting and editing video, removing all the “am”-s from sound bites, putting together interactive images with ThingLink, telling stories with Storify and many more can be challenge – but I learned how to do it. I realized that in our digitized era simply writing good stories is not enough. It’s very far from enough. We are bombarded with information from everywhere and a person needs to find the way to stand out. Each piece of text needs to be supported by proper visuals in order to attract attention and keep it. Also, each person can create a blog and pour his thoughts in it, but what’s the idea behind? What do you want to achieve with this? What’s your plan?

Definitely the most important thing I’ve learned is the power of social media. It doesn’t matter how well I write, if nobody reads it. I’ve embraced the power of Twitter. I used to think it’s just another waste of time, something like Facebook, but even lamer – who can say something meaningful in 140 characters? But I was terribly wrong. Maybe I would have reached even more people, had I used this platform properly from the beginning. What people need to learn is that Facebook is for the people you know and Twitter is for those you don’t. Because there are so many people out there and for sure some of them will be interested in what you write about and that’s the easiest way to reach them.

Also, as a journalist, I must appreciate the potential of Twitter to provide fast information on current events.People in Bulgaria are not well accustomed to using it, but around the world it turns out that news appear there way before they’ve reached other media platforms such as newspapers and TV.

Now let’s go back to the topic of my blog. I tried to find the answer to the question what is there outside of the popular music. What music can be an alternative to the mainstream that we see every day on TV and that keeps playing on the radio over and over again? And after that, who listens to it and why? What kind of artists are there in the underground, what are their stories, what do they gain, what are the challenges? Let’s take a ride through the last three months to see what kind of answers I’ve gathered.

taralejkov1asd_15673987First person who we found beyond the mainstream was Mitko Taralejkov. A well-known figure among the Bulgarian Underground, his music inspires with the way it reflects the life of a normal person – with all its everyday simple joy and tragedy. He continues doing what he does, because his art comes directly from his soul and straight to the heart of his fans, who find themselves in his songs.

10293630_706177579421394_8179770283350820573_oSecond person we met was Eddie Sullivan. A guitarist and President of the Rock Jamming Club, rock music opened the doors to new paths to him, helped him get a broader view on things and brought him together with people that became valuable friends.

Third was Stefan. He really explained what being out of the mainstream stands for. The music he listened to had always reflected him and popular music was never able to satisfy his needs. As a drummer he experiences the other music scene though the concerts he took part in and the music of FIDLAR helped him go through difficult times in his life.

After that I took a journey to UK where I accidentally witnessed an event called Critical Mass. Though mostly a cyclist event, music plays an important role in it. Through it they provide the atmosphere and make their voice heard.

The next musician that we found beyond the mainstream was Marin Valchev (aka Marski). In the underground he found a true passion for music and he’s been following it for more than 10 years. A drummer and DJ, he shows us how much talent and potential musicians in Bulgaria have.

10552489_498261233650580_6889292847687929369_nMoving forward, I met you with Sergey Gushchin, who’s a bass player. He told us a lot about hardcore and how he got into it. In this music and the concerts these bands make, he found what he truly likes. He believes that people listen to pop and chalga just because it’s there and they can drink to it, but when you hear the real music that speaks to the heart, you know it’s your music.

10431707_651720141607527_4956841601609522099_nThen I decided to show you the anatomy of a hard techno party. Through this event I showed why people choose to go to these parties and what makes them special.






Through the story of an Acoustic gig on AUBG campus, we found the little scene that the students create for themselves in order to experience the music they love. The performers get to show their talent and the audience finds shelter in these gatherings.

Last I decided to show you another alternative to mainstream music – That Handsome Devil. These artists have decided to stay true to themselves and create meaningful music. They’ve found a lot of loyal fans, which help them continue doing what they do.

Now it’s time to summarize the answer to my question. So what can we find beyond the mainstream?
From what I’ve learned, the most important thing about alternative music is that it brings people together. Popular music is made for the masses and it usually lacks deeper meaning and it doesn’t have the potential to touch a person’s hearth. When people go to a club to listen to pop or chalga, they don’t go there because of the music – they usually go there to get wasted. And though that creates a connection between them, it has nothing to do with the feeling of belonging that concerts and alternative parties provide.

The artists that create underground music continue to do it, because that’s what really comes from their heart and they know that even if they reach a small group of people, they will really value them. Beyond the mainstream people find a reflection of themselves, something that makes them experience things they haven’t before and what’s most important, they find people that share the same passions and ideas. The other music scene gives us a chance to not just listen thoughtlessly, but truly experience music.

me at a concert - personal archive

me at a concert – personal archive

I choose this topic, because music has always played a huge part in my life and a lot of my most cherished memories are connected to it. From the punk concerts to the techno parties, I’ve met so many amazing people with so many different ideas. I’ve discovered so many talented artists that have so much to offer. I could say that music created me, as it has shaped a lot of my views and the way I like to live my life.
My primary idea, dear reader, is don’t limit yourself. There’s a lot beyond the mainstream.

My search for good music is never ending, so probably I will share it with you in this blog. Stay tuned !

Here’s a video I put together from the acoustic gigs this semester.


The semester is almost over, but before I do a summary of my journey, I decided to draw some attention on some very special people.


Clockwise from top left: Naoko Takamoto, Jeremy Page, Godforbid. – personal archive

Since the beginning I’ve been searching for an answer to the question what can be found beyond the mainstream, so today I’m giving my readers a direct alternative – That Handsome Devil.

That Handsome Devil is an American band from New York with a unique style that’s so divergent from popular music, that I myself find it hard to fit it into a specific genre. Their music is truly an experiment of rock music mixing elements of jazz, hip-hop, electronica and God knows that else.

Back in 2004 their released their first single – “Dating Tips”, which is also a personal favorite of mine. The single was followed by the EP That Handsome Devil in 2006 and then in 2008 first album came out – A City Dressed in Dynamite . It received praise for being “profoundly entertaining”, “bizarre in a beautiful way” and “a madcap musical frenzy as dizzying as it is dazzling”. Since then they’ve made three other EP and another two albums. Their last album Drugs & Guns for Everyone came out just two weeks ago. This is also the main reason I decided to dedicate this post to them.


The band, personal archive

You see, it’s not easy being a band that’s out of the mainstream. You get a loyal, but still small audience. That Handsome Devil produces art of very high quality not only in terms of the sound of their music, but also their lyrics. They are not afraid to tackle with issues such as emptiness, drug addiction, materialism, war and death. Their style and the themes which prevail in their songs are for the careful and educated listener. What makes them really a pleasure for the ear is the lyrical dissonance which they often implement. That’s when the music and lyrics go into different directions; let’s say singing about miserable subjects with upbeat music – for example “Charlie’s Inferno”.

The band’s members rely on their fans to help them continue doing what they do. An interesting fact that I learned from them is that the production of their second album was in part funded as a start-up on Kickstarter. They managed to raise $6000 in just a month from people that believed in them. Now with their new album they are calling for their fans to share and comment on it.

“We don’t use a manager or investors, anyone who works in promotion or PR. We’ve never used a stylist, bookers or agents. IT’S JUST US AND YOU. You pass the word along. We’ll make the music.”


Godforbid, personal archive

Their lead singer, Godforbid, shares that in his life he doesn’t have a lot of commodities besides the fact that he can write and perform. He works a lot, sometimes three jobs to “keep the wheel turning”. How he finds time to create such good music? It’s a part of how he spends his free time, always running rhymes and tunes through his mind.

“I like to go on walks or write at bars. I wrote the first EP at a strip club.”

He thinks that the biggest prank he was able to pull off is his survival.

That Handsome Devil’s music is a reflection of their thoughts, ideas and the way they live their lives. They sing about things a lot of people wouldn’t dare and do it in a unique way which has earned them loyal fans that continue to support them.

“Now we need you. Spread the virus, sing the gospel. It’s because of you we’re able to do this. So thank you, and enjoy the album.”

You can purchase the album from here.

Follow them on Soundcloud.

Like them on Facebook.

And then if you would like to spread the word – share and comment. IT HELPS.

And you can help too if you like my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. I want to help good bands continue doing what they do.

You can learn a lot about people from the music they listen to. But what really shows their inner self is the way they experience it. A scene is not created simply by melodies or lyrics – the scene is the people, the places and the vibe that surrounds them. There are many ways to bring together a group of individuals, but maybe nothing does it the way that a music concert does.

DSC_1854Gentle candle light, cozy atmosphere and beautiful sound – a bare description of an event that took place on the campus of the American University in Bulgaria. An acoustic gig on Wednesday night organized by the Rock Jamming club.

Students gathered together in the party room, which was transformed into a perfect scene for a small concert. The performers were AUBG students – talented singers, guitar and piano players. The audience was more than happy to listen to them and show they share their love of music.

Imagine this. You step into a room and see a group of smiling faces – some well-known, others new – enjoying themselves before finals. Blankets on the ground, dozens of candles and drinks for everyone. As one girl noted – the only way it could have been better is if there was an actual fire which we could sit around.

DSC_1860The lights go out and it begins – the first performer goes on stage and starts strumming an acoustic guitar. As much as I love loud electric guitar riffs, deep bass and crazy drum beats, there is something special about an acoustic performance. The player becomes a poet with a guitar and each tone resonates with your soul. One can interpret a song in his personal way and turn it into something completely different. The softness of the guitar, the gentle strum, you can see how they affect people deeply. That’s what I saw in the audience – hearts that were truly touched by what they were experiencing. The closed eyes, heads slowly lying on a nearby shoulder and the quiet whisper of lyrics – they never lie.

“Lovely atmosphere, awesome to see fellow students performing live. Overall quite cool.” commented Ivaylo Stefkov, a firm lover of good music.

DSC_1861These acoustic sessions are a tradition at AUBG and they are a chance to see live performances in Blagoevgrad. The town doesn’t have a well-developed music scene and these events are a form of shelter for a lot of music lovers. People need not only to hear music – they need to experience it and just listening to a song in a club is definitely not enough. The Rock Jamming club is doing its best to provide the musicians in the university with a chance to show their talent and the fans of alternative music with actual live performances.

DSC_1881“I am extremely happy how much clubs have been coming to us looking for people to play at their events. Next semester we have more planned gigs and surprises around the corner. For the moment we have one more acoustic session and then everybody can go back to focusing on finals.” said Eddie Sullivan, one of the presidents of the Rock Jamming Club.

Eddie thinks the acoustic concert went pretty well. Things were prepared in advance and the atmosphere was very relaxed. He’s looking forward to the next one. The upcoming event  will take place in Sofia, where students and alumni will gather in Scaptobara on December 6 for some good acoustic music. Be part of it!




Our little music scene here at the university is really something different. It’s comforting to know that wherever you go, you can find people that share your passions. And from what I’ve learned, with an acoustic guitar and a beautiful voice you can turn even mainstream music into something truly remarkable.

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For this blog post I’ve chosen a different approach. It’s hard enough to explain a music scene through one person, what will happen if I try to do it through a single event? Hopefully I’ve made a wise choice by picking probably the most massive hard techno event for the season.
The date was November 14, the place was our well known and loved mental hospital – Party Center 4km. An event brought to the fans by Gabbafreakz, Overload и NG Records. They were not only kind enough to offer us a night with guests of very high caliber, but also supported it with most of the best our local hardcore scene has to offer.


First headliner – DARPA – started his career as a techno DJ back in 2008 on the local scene in Italy. Since then he’s gained huge appreciation for his style and has released on labels on international scale (Italo Business, Naked Lunch, Finetool etc.) and has played in different countries around Europe and overseas.


Second headliner – DAY MAR – is a hardcore diva from the Netherlands with over 10 years of experience around the scene. Signed with Masters of Hardcore, she’s a desired and appreciated guest at most of the big festivals like Dominator and Syndicate and never leaves the audience disappointed. This is her first time to visit Bulgaria.

10153877_651714101608131_2251480462571007583_nAbout our local support? Honestly, I’d probably pay the same money I did just for them, if I have to. A gift for the good ear – Asparuh, Grozdanoff, Joy, Metalix, Mokushi, Nobody, Shano DJ, SML, Dreadkick, Balkan hard project, Sorce & Redish and Cuntroller.
There were two stages – main one and small one. Standard tickets were 26lv and VIP – 32 lv. The first promo tickets were released about two months in advance at the price of 18lv (of which I managed to take advantage) and were sold out pretty fast.

And this is all I can tell you in terms of facts. Because this kind of experience can hardly be adequately explained with words. Luckily, this time there are sufficient amounts of visual materials.
So, I have facts and visuals, what else do I need for a story? Quotes.

You can’t collect quotes on a techno party. It’s just not how it works. On a party like this you’re swimming through an ocean of Jane and Joe Doe’s that are swimming through an ocean of heavy bass and neon lights – what you’ve heard from them might echo in your mind for days, but the last thing these people need is to be identified. But the comments on the facebook event speak for themselves.

Covering a music event of this caliber is hard from a journalistic point of view. How can I talk about and explain something, if I’m not familiar with it? How can I not love this scene, since I’m familiar with it? How can I be objective, if I’m in love?
Only thing I can do is analyze.
11611_651720434940831_1746952814036155572_nHere I have to say that these parties are one of the places I feel most at home. It’s like a family gathering – a big one. You know how we don’t always like our relatives? Sometimes we don’t even know them. Other times we’ve become so used to their wackiness that it doesn’t even bother us anymore. Like your cousin John, who always complains from the sound system? Or uncle Jim who talks about the good old days when the scene was “different”? And, of course, your sister-in-law Janet who spends half of the night doing speed in the bathroom.

But we keep going to these gatherings, how come?

Because we are all connected.

10431707_651720141607527_4956841601609522099_nThrough this music, these places, these vibes. No matter how different, we’re all in it together. Aware of why all of this is happening, we support our own fucked-up-ness as a community. And we want this to continue, that’s why we’re always there. That’s why I’m not afraid to go alone to 4km – I can never be alone there. There is no doubt that I’ll see the same faces from before and that’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter if the entrance if 5, 10 or 20 leva – the people who truly value the experience will be there. We like it hard and rough, blasting from the big speakers.

1969285_651723578273850_1050930818661482668_nYou know, among the many differences between a chalga party and a hardtechno party is the center of attention on the “dancefloor”. While the first focuses on ass, tits and exchanging body fluids, the second has one main direction people face towards – the DJ. Yes, you have a whole army of dancing people looking at the one behind the console. That’s called appreciation and that person deserves it – every self-respectful techno fen knows that. The DJ is the one who lifts you up from the ground, makes you jump around like a maniac and throws you on the ground with an evil drop only to bring you up with the next kick.

It’s up to him to decide what’s going to resonate with the crowd and when he sets the pitch so high, keeping it pumping there, creating so much tension that your inner self shouts “DROP IT, F*CKIN’ DROP IT” .. That person must feel like a God.

But sometimes I face away from the DJ. Sometimes I like to stand right next to the speakers, on the front line and look at the people. When I see their smiles and their energy a strong wave of joy hits me straight to the heart. Look at it, this community .. it’s priceless.

fdI do have a lot more to say, maybe I’ll continue in my next post.

Till then enjoy this quick run through this amazing night made with Storify.

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Another week has passed, dragging with itself the undeniable fact that winter is coming. Here in Blagoevgrad, though often witnessing rain, we’re still a bit far from the idea of unbearable coldness and snow. But in other parts of the world temperatures have already dropped below zero. Siberia – a place people associate with freezing cold and probably often imagine people living in igloos – doesn’t come first to mind when we think about hardcore music. But maybe we should reconsider after meeting the next star in my blog.

10552489_498261233650580_6889292847687929369_n Sergey Gushchin is a freshman at AUBG coming from Novosibirsk, Russia. He’s a bass player, who’s passion for good music has its roots in his early childhood. His father was always a “rock” guy, which exposed Sergey to various bands like Deep Purple and Judas Priest, which started shaping his taste. Now he’s mostly into hardcore, post-hardcore and screamo. He recalls how fascinated he was by Slipknot as early as 8 years old. After that he developed a deeper knowledge of the hardcore music, when he was able to use the Internet to expand his collection. Caliban – a metalcore band from Germany was particularly influential to him.

Segey told me that when people hear the fact that he’s from Siberia their first reaction is to ask whether or not this musical taste is common.

 “No, it’s not. Not a lot of people, not at all. But it just so happened that I found my company and we listened to our favorite music together.”

So our Russian friend was not alone in his mission. He managed to come together with people with the same passion, so they were able to share bands and go to concerts together. Yes, there were concerts in Novosibirsk.

“Mostly local bands, playing some weird kind of music. But it was hardcore, we liked it. People were playing, drinking, shouting, having fun – good times”

Before coming to AUBG Sergey went to two big open air concerts – he listened to Fear Factory and Korn live. Now he is interested in the bands coming to Bulgaria – like Enter Shikari and Madball.

I was interested to hear that while in his hometown he went to a so called “rock school”. It’s a music school where the emphasis is on this specific genre. Sergey remembers his bass guitar teacher as a “tattooed chain-smoker”, who nevertheless was very entertaining and good to learn from.

As for why exactly he got attracted to this music, it was intentional.

487295_126549370821770_1732792882_n“You just feel it. When I was going through school during this time everybody was listening to music from their phones – mostly popular shit. But when I heard this hardcore music I just knew that it’s mine and I will listen to it. You know, when you go to a club where they play music that you don’t like –  like chalga, for example – it’s just to get drunk and have fun. But rock, hardcore .. you listen to it because it makes you feel good, you really like it, it’s your music.”

Sergey hopes to not give up on his favorite genre. He looks at his father, who even at this age still asks him for new bands to listen to and explore. This inspires our Russian friend to continue to listen to the music that he truly loves.

If you want to get a taste of Russian hardcore, you can check out two bands Sergey recommended for us – Amatory and Ease of Disgust.

Here’s a map with the bands mentioned made with ThingLink.

Hello, dear readers! As you know this blog is a part of my Multimedia Journalism Class and every week we learn new things to enhance our blogging skills. What we got acquainted with today is this cool thing Storify. You can use resources from all over the web to create a visual representation of your a story, #much #fun.

Here’s a picture of how it looks like with just twitter posts on a subject!


Here’s a link to the whole storyfy.

But this is not everything – today I’ve put another storytelling tool in my backpack! It’s called ThingLink and it can be amazingly useful. You create interactive images by adding links to all kind of content – pictures, video, web articles, profiles – there’s so much to explore! Simply using words to tell a story isn’t enough in our digitized era anymore. But this might be a good thing – we’re discovering new possibilities for creating something that can truly grab a person’s attention.

I made this music genre chart in just a couple of seconds!


Here’s the whole ThingLink. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

From Pink Floyd to Drum&Bass

Posted: November 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

There is a warm fuzzy feeling I get when recalling my first experiences around the underground in my home town Varna. Falling for the music is one thing, but when you discover the whole scene around it – living, moving, creating and evolving – it takes you on a whole different level. Relevant to my next story is my first ever hardcore concert – year 2008, Club Area 51, band – Straight opposition. Another band – Bombshelter – was warming them up and I recognized the drummer – same person that was pouring drinks behind the bar previous times I went there. Now, 6 years later I’m more than happy to tell you his story.


Sea Garden band(from left to right) – Dido, Sasho, Marski, Slavi – personal archive

Marin Valchev – or as we know him better – Marski, can talk a lot about music. With 12 years of experience on the drums, he’s played all kinds of music, on different scenes and occasions, all around the place. His bands have composed their own music and he holds the belief that musicians shouldn’t limit themselves to simply covering others. His current band – Sea Garden – is known and loved around the local scene in Varna. Their music grabs you immediately with its funky style along with some reggae sound and alternative rock elements. Marski has recently gone into drum and bass music and had numerous appearances as a DJ in the last year. We’ll take a walk through the journey that brought him here.

Marski recalls his first music memories as going through old cassettes and listening to various artists. First band that really impressed him was Pink Floyd when he was just 5 years old. Later while growing up he exchanged cassettes with other people to get to know more bands, but wasn’t really interested in the mainstream music – he’d developed a taste for the good stuff.


Marski on drums – personal archive

First experiences in the underground scene, he said, were the Freemind Summer Festivals in Comics Club. Afterwards Area 51 opened doors and gave a start-up to local bands like Red Laces, PoBoi, Disgraced and etc.. Red Laces was the first serious band Marski started playing in soon after picking up the drums (songs here and here). The style – punk – was new to him, but he caught up really fast and in 2004 they did a number of concerts around the country – in Varna, Plovdiv, Shumen. That year also gave birth to Our Unity Crew – a gathering of local musicians dedicated to making music that they truly like.

“The name came spontaneously from lyrics by Red Laces. The idea was to unite all the bands from our surrounding into one crew.”

Those people shared common friend circles and above all – the idea that the underground music scene needs to be kept alive.

Marski later continued his own personal growth with a number of different bands. Bombshelter is one that definitely stands out. Taking a step towards hardcore, Marski and his fellow band members received praise from their fans and a good deal of approval from other musicians. Dug out from the old archives.

“I felt the first time people heard us live it had the “WOW” effect.”

The Shits are a band worth mentioning too, with their playful punk/ska rhythms and melodies mixed with humorous lyrics they were putting out some great shows. Sample here.


Rehearsal with Sea Garden – personal archive

As you see, Marski went through a big variety of styles. Sea Garden’s style is also a mixture, but the effect is really something special. About his current he has to say that

“ .. it’s very close to my heart, not only because of the music, but because of the people I play with. They are close friends of mine and what we create together brings us endless joy!”

Live videos here, here & here.

With time Marski developed a passion towards drum and bass music too. He believes it unites everything – from jazz to techno – and it’s an infinite ocean of music. He stared mixing and taking part in events around Bulgaria and a few days ago played a set on Radio Nula, which is very popular among the scene. Check it out.


Marski on the mixing console – personal archive

For Marski music is not an industry and shouldn’t be made one, but there needs to be a good underground culture. The good music is for those that have the desire to hear it.

“People need to support their local artists, go to concerts and parties. There are a lot of artist who make underground music and they’re very talented. Not far in the future people will realize what power good music has and begin to value it accordingly.”