Balkan bash! Music festival returns to Park Slope for its 35th year

golden festival
Where all your dreams come true: The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival of Balkan bands will return to Grand Prospect Hall on Jan. 17 and 18.
Oresti Tsonopoulus

This festival is pure gold!

A Balkan music celebration will take over Park Slope for its ninth consecutive year, bringing upbeat tunes and endless conga lines to Grand Prospect Hall on Jan. 17 and 18. The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival will showcase dozens of groups playing traditional tunes from Eastern Europe and Turkey — music that is more lively than your average folky fare, according to the show’s organizer. 

“Lots of music from the Balkans is upbeat. It’s not what you associate with traditional music,” said Matt Smith. One group, the 20-piece brass band What Cheer? Brigade, particularly energizes the crowd, he noted. “We typically have crowd-surfing during their sets.” 

The festival, which starts on Friday night and continues on Saturday evening, will feature solo Middle Eastern musicians, choirs, and brass bands playing in five different rooms of the enormous gilded event space. Visitors wander between the Hall’s many rooms in search of their favorite acts, and can take time out to shop and nibble on traditional Balkan treats. Attendees can also wander up to the venue’s fifth floor, where skilled musicians — some on the program and others not — jam with each other informally.

The event began 35 years ago in Manhattan as a niche get-together for Eastern European musicians and dancers, but quickly grew into a full-on Balkan bash. The festival finally landed in Park Slope in 2011, where it regularly attracts upwards of 3,000 people each year.

According to Smith, the festival’s success comes in part from its namesake band, Zlatne Uste, a funky brass band that has headlined the party since its inception. Zlatne Uste attracted other Eastern European music groups, and now the festival has become a regular chance for Balkan bands to socialize and compare notes, Smith said.

“They get to attend the party and see other groups,” he said.

Zlatne Uste will play its namesake festival on both nights of the festival; playing an unscheduled set in the main ballroom on Jan. 17, and at 9:45 pm on Jan. 18. 

Zlatne Uste Golden Festival at Grand Prospect Hall [263 Prospect Ave. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 788–0777, www.goldenfest.org]. Jan. 17, 7 pm–12:30 am; Jan. 18, 6 pm–1:35 am. $35 on Friday ($30 students); $55 on Saturday ($45 students).