A small cellar bar dimly illuminated by the flickering light of candles. Red brick walls stand exposed and eternally unaffected by the omnipresent clouds of silver cigarette smoke dancing around the room. Numerous small circular tables are packed in together tightly, each occupied with people sitting arm-to-arm. It´s the typical layout of any jazz club in any city in Europe or North America.
Moments earlier, the place was buzzing with cocktail fueled chatter, energy moving in infinite chaotic directions at once. But as the first smooth melodic notes are played by the band and the first words sang, the crowd is in unison, all ears and all eyes focused on the beautiful dark haired woman on stage in front of them, captivatingly singing sweet, sensuous jazz music with all of her soul.
Meet Silvia Josifoska. She is one of the most well known and well respected female jazz and blues singers in Central Europe. Her distinct voice and style has led to a career which has produced one acclaimed album, a steady number of appearances at international musical festivals around Europe, and a regular following in Slovakia and Czech Republic –particularly in Prague– where she plays at top clubs such as Jazz Club Železná (Železná 16), Malostranská Beseda (Malostranské Náměstí 21), A Studio Rubín (www.astudiorubin.cz), and Blues Sklep (www.bluessklep.cz).
On July 3rd and 4th, she is playing back-to-back shows starting at 9.30pm at the popular Jazz Club Ungelt (www.jazzungelt.cz), just off of Staroměstská Square.
I was fortunate enough to chat with Miss Josifoska and talk to her about her career and about the blues and jazz scene in Czech Republic and Slovakia. I was interested to know how a young woman from Slovakia might get involved in singing such a seemingly obscure style of music in Central Europe.
“Jazz has always had a solid tradition here,” she told me. “My first performance was back in the early-‘90s when I was about 20. It was the mid-nineties that we witnessed a jazz and blues euphoria in Czech Republic and Slovakia, and more clubs emerged.”
Indeed dozens upon dozens of music bars sprouted up in the mid-to-late 90s and jazz festivals became a regular occurrence, drawing in top international stars of the genre. The popularity propelled and supported Czech and Slovak musicians such as Dan Bárta, Martin Valihora and Juraj Burian and gave greater recognition to accomplished older artists such as Peter Lipa.
Josifoska´s interest in the music came to her slowly at a younger age, but soon it grew into her passion. “I fell in love, first with blues and later with jazz,” she says. “The first musicians that truly grabbed my heart were J. Lee Hooker, B.B. King, the Australians Mighty Reapers. Now it´s Etta James, Randy Crawford and Cassandra Wilson, and especially Me´shell Ndegeocello.”
The influence of these blues and jazz singers can be heard clearly in her singing style. Her voice emanates a certain deep sensuality and honesty which gives Josifoska a connection with her audience when she performs, something which is important in the typically small venues where the music is played.
“I love to sing in small clubs. To be able to see the faces is something I enjoy, as it makes for a wonderful intimacy with the people in the audience,” she says. “Although playing in big places is fine, as well. Really to perform at any club is a good experience for me.”
Having another opportunity to sing again in Prague is an event she is greatly looking forward to. “I love performing here! It’s a bit different, because the audience is usually more international, so it’s sort of a new inspiration for me. But the audience is so attentive and responsive.”
This show should be no less special, as Josifoska will be performing with one of the best ensembles in the Slovak jazz scene, including Ondrej Krajňák on piano, Stefan Bartus on double bass, Juraj Raši on drums and possibly a guest performer, Czech saxophonist Ondrej Štveráček.
You can find other upcoming shows and have a listen to Silvia Josifoska´s music on her webpage www.silviajosifoska.sk.
Or even better, you can come out this Friday and Saturday to experience her in full glory, live and in person, for what is certain to be an unforgettable show by one of the most talented and most accomplished female jazz singers that Central Europe has to offer.
Silvia Josifoska will be performing live on July 3 & 4, 2009 at Jazz Club Ungelt (TÝN 2/640, 608 324 794, www.jazzungelt.cz.)