Bansko Jazz Festival Programme 2010: The Doctor Reveals All

Jun 24, 2010 20 Comments by

The Bansko Jazz Festival 2010 runs from 8th August to 13th August. So, as keen as mustard, I attended the media and press launch of the Bansko Internaional Jazz Festival 2010 programme at Sofia’s BTV building. The legendary festival organiser, Dr Emil Iliev, spoke about this year’s event and the programme of international musicians.

I asked Dr Iliev over a fine glass of Todoroff’s new SPV wine, how this free jazz festival event, came about. Please take a look:

This year promises to even surpass the 2009 Bansko Jazz Festival with more music in more locations than ever before. On the 7th August there is a special bonus; a tribute to Lea Ivanova. The performance of her songs by Desi Teniidjieva and Mary Teneva will ensure the festival continues it growth and international reputation.

Background to Dr Emil Iliev – organiser and director of the Jazz Festival

A doctor of medicine and dermatology, Dr Iliev combines modern medicine with traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture. He worked in Austria, Germany and Switzerland in the communist era as well as being a consultant on a cruise line and has visited 140 countries. He plays the piano. He has a 40 year old son and a daughter.

The Birth of The Bansko Jazz Fest

Bulgaria Music Festival

Main Stage Piano: 2009's Jazz Festival

His connections abroad saw demand for his clinics in Bansko from his wealthy German, Austrian and Swiss clients. He realised that they were staying for three weeks not just for treatment but for culture too. So in the beginning, he got together with friends and musicians for a Jazz night and a Jazz BBQ.

These small sessions started many years before the main festival events.

One year he met the mayor of Bansko and suggested an idea — that they should have a proper Bansko Jazz music festival. First year there were sixty or seventy people.  Now there are six to seven thousand people who attend the event.

The Festival Future

Dr Iliev explained to me that he wants to grow the festival to 300,000 attendees in the next seven to eight years. This is hugely ambitious. I don’t think anyone would have dared think the event could grow to even its current size thirteen years ago.

So I won’t be betting against this target.

This was my first meeting with Dr Iliev, but immediately I could feel his enthusiasm, his connection with other music enthusiasts and his immense capacity to work tirelessly as both a doctor and festival organiser.

Festival Sponsorship

I must add that his achievement must have been a huge mountain to climb. There has been very little money for commercial music festivals in Bulgaria. Dr Iliev established this event on small amounts of money —  but topped it up with a huge amount of interpersonal skill. His connections and enthusiasm seem to bring out the goodwill and generosity in others. Impressive.

The general sponsors are again First Investment Bank (main investor in the ski lift company Ulen) and the Bansko Municipality. Main sponsors are Sony, LUKoil and Vega Star. I would also like to mention that Todoroff winery are a festival sponsor and, at the press event, I tasted their new white Muskat and their new red “SPV” (Sante Per Vine — health though wine!). SPV is a Mavrud, Cabernert Sauvignon, Merlot blend. For more wine reviews check out

More Music Than Ever Before: From BBQ To The Early Hours

This year Bansko Royal Towers (another Festival sponsor) will be not only hosting the excellent stage B concerts from 16:00 until 17:30 every day from the 8th August but also the JAZZ BBQ! Music and food from 12:00 until 14:00. Bansko Royal Towers is the place to go for the Dixie Teteven Band and for Rumie Alexandroff’s “Ragtime Band” in the afternoon session. All very accessible for non Jazz enthusiasts.

When the main Nikola Vaptsarov Square concerts end, it’s then time to stroll down the hill to the Florimont Hotel and Night . Here the party will continue with live music until the early hours. This addition shows just how much there is to be had in Bansko.


Please subscribe here for more on the Jazz Festival 2010. Coming up is my video interview of Vasil Petrov who performs Thursday 12th main square. For more news on festival wine tasting, art exhibitions and my special offer on Bansko activities, sign up today. It’s all free.


What music do you enjoy?  What have your experiences been like at both Bansko, and other music festivals?

I reckon live music is still thriving in Bulgaria…

… Just a few weeks ago I hugely enjoyed Elton John live in the Locomtiv stadium in Sofia. Speaking to others they say Sofia’s answer to Kavarna’s rock fest ( 23 – 25th July 2010) was the three day rock festival at the Vasil Levski stadium this week. Headline acts Metallica, Ramstein and Alice in Chains ensured a big success.

Again in Sofia, there was the ParkLive three day festival: Groove  Amada, Gotan Project and Morcheeba. Held behind Sofia airport’s terminal 2 and hampered by rain, it was still judged a success but room for improvement. Not bad all in under three weeks. Looking ahead Nigel Kennedy plays Plodiv on 1st September and Sofia on the 2nd September.


Bansko Jazz Festival Programme 2010

Open-Air stage “Royal Towers Hotel” Open-Air stage “N. Vaptzarov”
Saturday, 7 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm
– Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – One night befor The official opening ceremony (rem. of  Lea Ivanova)

1. Dessy Tenekedjieva & band – Bulgaria


3. Mary Taneva & band, with songs of Lea Ivanova – Bulgaria

Sunday, 8 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm
– Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – The official opening ceremony

1. Big Band of BNR, conductor Yanko Miladinov, guest Bianca Morales (vokal) – Bulgaria/Finland

2. Antonio Flinta quartet – Italy

3. Yildiz Ibrahimova & band – Turkey

Monday, 9 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm – Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – Show starts

1. “No Square Quartet” – France

2. “Tango Project Quartet” – Israel

3. “Incognito” – GB

Tuesday, 10 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm – Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – Show starts

1. Big Band Plovdiv, conductor Nikolay Geshev – Bulgaria

2. “Percussion Impact Project” – Hristo Yotsov, Stoyan Yankulov, Rumen Toskov – Bulgaria

3. “8WD” (Eight Wheel Drive) – Germany

Wednesday, 11 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm – Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – Show starts

1. Petra Erney Quartet – Czech Republik

2. “Side steps” – Germany

3. Solomon Burke – USA

Thursday, 12 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm – Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime band”

7.30pm – Show starts

1. Camellia Todorova & band – Bulgaria

2. Vasil Petrov and Yolanda Graves (USA) with Angel Zaberski Band – Bulgaria

3. “Djabe” special guest Steve Hackett – Hungary/GB

Friday, 13 August 12am – 2pm – Jazz Barbeque

with “Dixie Teteven band”

4 – 5.30pm – Jazz Cofee

Rumen Alexandroff “Ragtime bаnd”

7.30pm – Show starts

1. Benny Golson (USA) with “Kelag” Big Band – Austria

2. Axel Zwingenberger & Lila Ammons – Germany/USA

3. “Eftekasat” – Egypt


About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

20 Responses to “Bansko Jazz Festival Programme 2010: The Doctor Reveals All”

  1. Debbie @ Happy Maker says:

    Hi Lance,

    this really sounds like a lot of fun. Wish I could be there. It goes to show how one person can make a difference.

    • LanceNelson says:

      Yes, an inspiration of one person achieving against the odds. And I have really no idea how hard it really was to make it happen in a country where, even now, the average wage is around $6,000 per annum.

  2. Michelle Vandepas says:

    oh this looks so so fun. I want to come. I wish it wasn't 1800 to get to Europe in the summer. I love jazz. I love wine. I love traveling. What could get better? Have a fabulous time!

    • LanceNelson says:

      Thanks Michelle,

      Hope you do manage a trip one day for the Jazz Festival. With quality accommodation at just 20 EUR per night, the economics may stack up. Travelling around Bulgaria is good value too and full of interest from Thracian, Byzantine, Roman, Ottoman and Communist perios all throwing up plenty of interest. I was on the coast (Sozopol) last week. A coach from Sofia (6.5 hours) cost just 15 EUR… and they even dropped me and picked me up on the return from my door. So do try Bulgaria one day, I'm pretty sure the wine, Jazz and real traveling experience will exceed your expectations.

  3. Cheryl says:

    This looks like a really cool, fun event. Well done, Dr. Iliev! Onwards and upwards to 30,000! Then up to 200,000 or 300,000 people – incredible!

    • LanceNelson says:

      Cheryl, Whilst I have to admit these forecast numbers are on the optimistic side… raising the bar and setting sights high is something that I think is a lesson. After all noone woulf have predicted the numbers now coming to Bansko every August. The vibe with the Pirin mountain backrop makes it worth the trip for all music lovers.

  4. Affiliate Maven says:

    Okay this post just wants to make me grab my passport and run!

    Thanks for the 10 minutes of day-dreaming.


  5. @andrewrondeau says:

    That must take a huge aamount of organizing. I bet a lot of fun though. Who you looking forward to seeing, Lance?


    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Andrew,

      In a country where good organisation is not always a given, I think it's a huge achievement. I love the afternoon B stage Teteven Brothers. But I also am lloking forward to seeing Vasil Petrov… as I met him at the press event and I had the pleasure to ask him a question for a video interview.

  6. Bruce says:

    I love jazz and had no idea so many of the people I like are there at this festival. I am not much on downhill skiing but would love this! Mountains, summer air, wine and great music. I am so wanting to be there!

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Bruce. Well summed up for so many who come. I am sure you would love it. Many of the Bulgarian wines are now really special and well worth tracking down as they are exported all around the world these days, including the US!

  7. Raymond Chua says:

    Thanks for sharing the video. 🙂

  8. Jennifer Syrkiewicz says:

    This sounds like an amazing event. I got in to jazz a few years ago when I first heard NIna Simone, and then got completely in to her. I saw one of her last concerts and from then on I've been hooked!

    Nice one for the organiser of this event – hope it goes brilliantly. Jen

  9. @tyroneshum says:

    Hi Lance,

    Great event! I've always been in love with jazz music and upbeat acoustic so I might find this really interesting. I hope I could catch this too although, not so sure since I'll be in Bali next month as well to go for another holiday. 🙂



    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Tyronne,

      Glad you Jazz and hope you can make it to Bulgaria for the Jazz Festival! Bali is magical – I've been there twice. My memories of my beloved paragliding activities on the Timbis cliffs looking at the seaweed farms in the water below, the temples on top and the verandas of the Nikko hotel will stay with me forever. Do go there for a tandem fly to see what I mean.

  10. Beat says:

    Lance, I'm very happy for your town, and for Jazz! Great landscapes and great music – a match made in heaven. Hats off to Dr Iliev and Bansko. Some would have us believe that building more and higher and bigger and better barriers is a good thing. Staging an international/cosmopolitan festival is so immeasurably more constructive (pun intended). The very essence of music and of Jazz in particular has always been to dismantle barriers. Long live Jazz music … in Bansko!!!

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Beat, I agree that the trend for barriers in front of stages is alienating. This is like when football pitches had high steel cages to keep the fans off the pitch. Jazz music is civilising: and seems to create a friendly atmosphere that I like.

  11. Amy LeForge says:

    Lance, what an amazing thing, for a small gathering to grow so much! Kudos to Dr. Iliev for his work. I enjoy listening to jazz music, it must be a wonderful experience.

  12. David Rogers says:

    I hope everything goes off OK; my father was a semi pro jazz musician, but I haven’t inherited his love for jazz!

  13. Sherri Joubert says:

    The Jazz Festival sounds like a lot of fun. I'm in the birthplace of jazz here in South Louisiana and frequent the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I even have some framed posters. They are extremely valuable as time goes on.

    Most here don't consume wine. New Orleans is also the birthplace of the cocktail, and we believe that had something to do with the birth of jazz and its uninhibited free form.

    It sounds like an ambitious but achievable goal to attract 300,000 people in under a decade. Once word gets out that it's a great party with great jazz and atmosphere, it will catch on fast. It helps a lot if the local population supports it extremely well. The New Orleans Jazz Fest attracts a huge number of locals, and that's one reason it's so successful. The bigger it gets, the bigger the talent will be as well, so the whole thing could grow exponentially. I hope Dr. Iliev is prepared for fast success as well as having to build it.

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