Monday, 21 August 2017

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

Text by Christopher Deliso   
7 October 2008 | Macedonia, and indeed the entire Balkans, were transfixed on Sunday night by an event much larger than its confines in Skopje’s City Stadium. The massive humanitarian concert for Toshe 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 more watching on television (the concert was broadcast in nine European countries, and projected on a special screen in Proeski’s hometown of Krushevo).

Hosted by famous Macedonian actor Toni Mihaylovski 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 Toshe, including pianist Simon Trpcevski, pop singers Adriyan Gadzha and Kaliopi, ethno-pop group Synthesis and even Ukrainian singer Ruslana (winner of the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest). The Macedonian Symphony Orchestra, and Toshe’s own touring band, contributed to many of the songs.

Most of the performers sang a selected one of Toshe’s classic songs- eerily, often in tandem with the deceased singer. Indeed, throughout the almost five-hour show, the background screen conveying scenes from Toshe’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 Toshe remains alive throughout the land. The phenomenal love and admiration Toshe 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 Toshe’s unforgettable rendition of the traditional song Zaydi, Zaydi, recorded last year in Belgrade; Toshe’s are considered among the finest interpretations of the song ever, as can be heard in the video below.

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 Toshe’s 11-year-old nephew and budding singer, Kristian, 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 Krushevo 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 children’s charities. Toshe’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, Toshe played in the same City Stadium for approximately 20,000 people. captured that moment for posterity in words and pictures here.

This article is courtesy of, one of the leading independent news and analysis groups on the Balkans today, online since 2003.

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