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At Macedonia’s Concert for Tose Proeski, a Huge Outpouring of Love and Sadness

October 6, 2008

By Christopher Deliso

Macedonia, and indeed the entire Balkans, were transfixed last night by an event much larger than its confines in Skopje’s City Stadium. The massive humanitarian concert for Tose Proeski, held on the one-year anniversary of what would sadly prove to be the 26-year-old singer’s last concert, left tears in the eyes of the more than 40,000 people in attendance, as well as the many many morbalkanalysisstobi800e watching on television (the concert was broadcast in nine European countries, and projected on a special screen in Proeski’s hometown of Krusevo).

Hosted by famous Macedonian actor Toni Mihajlovski and Macedonian Television presenter Eli Tanaskova, the concert featured a stream of performers from both Macedonia and abroad, all of whom had been friends of Tose, including pianist Simon Trpcevski, pop singers Adrijan Gadza and Kaliopi, ethno-pop group Synthesis and even Ukrainian singer Ruslana (winner of the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest). The Macedonian Symphony Orchestra, and Tose’s own touring band, contributed to many of the songs.

Most of the performers sang a selected one of Tose’s classic songs- eerily, often in tandem with the deceased singer. Indeed, throughout the almost five-hour show, the background screen conveying scenes from Tose’s performances and life, floating through the dry ice and haze of stage lights, added a spectral dimension. In any case, the cumulative energy of the stadium, sustained by the massed fans, showed that the spirit of Tose remains alive throughout the land.

The phenomenal love and admiration Tose inspired in those he met was evidenced also by the many well-wishers beamed in by TV links from countries like Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. This format only reaffirmed the importance of the event and the late singer, whose popularity transcended borders and gave the occasionally fractious natives of the various ex-Yugoslav republics a subject for common adoration.

The show began on a chilly but dry night, one day after torrential rains, with a video presentation of Tose’s unforgettable rendition of the traditional song Zajdi, Zajdi, recorded last year in Belgrade; Tose’s are considered among the finest interpretations of the song ever (listen here). And then the guest artists continued to take turns enlivening Proeski’s repertoire, with occasional interludes of comments about his life and even an appearance by the Macedonian prime minister, Nikola Gruevski. However, the most touching moment came near the very end when a posthumously recorded song featuring Tose’s 11-year-old nephew and budding singer, Kristijan, was played.

The common view of both the presenters and other famous people in attendance, as well as the multitude of ordinary folk asked to voice an opinion for the media, was a lonely one: for despite all their attempts to re-eulogize the man who died on October 16, 2007, they all knew that ultimately there was nothing to say. Everyone understood what the late singer meant to them as a nation, his kindness to children and the forgotten, his incredible musical talent, his down-to-earth nature as a country boy from Krusevo who never forgot his roots or his values.

Despite that everyone knew everything already, they all braved at least a sentence or two. Decorum demanded it of them. Macedonians, who have always been known for being able to survive anything, exhibited their trademark dignity in the face of tragedy. In the end, the grace and love generated at the concert seemed for many further affirmation that this small country, most often riven by intrigue, scheming and mutual enmities will indeed survive.

Throughout the concert, viewers in Macedonia and other Balkan countries were invited to send text messages on special numbers to their domestic mobile operators, which will then be donated to childrens’ charities. Tose’s love for children was well known, and was frequently attested when in his concerts he would allow them to come up onto the stage and hug him, awestruck presenting a teddy bear or flowers to their hero. And he donated to children’s hospitals and other charities. At the concert, his foundation made available 200 free tickets for Macedonian children in orphanages and special needs children.

In 2004, when he was a rising star, Tose played in the same City Stadium for approximately 20,000 people. Balkanalysis.com captured that moment for posterity in words and pictures. Here is the link to that article.

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