Serbia draws crowds for turbocharged trumpet festival

A brass band performing during the 56th annual trumpet and brass band festival in the Serbian village of Guca on Aug 12, 2016.
A brass band performing during the 56th annual trumpet and brass band festival in the Serbian village of Guca on Aug 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

GUCA, Serbia (AFP) - A small town in western Serbia is hosting the world's largest trumpet festival, a raucous annual celebration of brass bands that draws crowds of hundreds of thousands.

Now in its 56th year, the Guca festival brings together dozens of Serbian bands who compete for prestigious awards and entertain revellers in a turbocharged street party.

The five-day event, which ends on Sunday (Aug 14), usually attracts around 200,000 to 300,000 music-lovers from Serbia and abroad, according to festival organiser Marija Pavlovic.

"We have every year more and more foreign tourists coming here, so we are very happy," she told AFP.

Brass band music is symbolic of Serbian culture and Ms Pavlovic said the festival began "spontaneously" outside Guca's church back 1961, growing in popularity each year.

A three-hour drive from the capital Belgrade and home to just a few thousand people, Guca is now famed for its yearly festivities. A statue of a trumpeter stands in its centre.

Following preliminary heats held throughout the year, the best bands compete on Guca's main stages while others play for tips on the streets and in cafes, as whole pigs and lambs are roasted on spits.

Beer and rakija, the local brandy, are drunk in abundance at what is officially called the Dragacevo Assembly of Trumpet Players, after the region in which it is held.

Among the first-time visitors this year is Danish tourist Anders Vold, 25, who has attended Denmark's leading Roskilde music festival several times but said Guca was in a different league.

"It's like Roskilde on steroids, with Balkan brass," he said.

"Everyone has to experience this because it's crazy and it's very good, and the people are so nice."