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Balkan Trafik Festival: Brussels music extravaganza to go ahead online

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Balkan Trafik Festival: Brussels music extravaganza to go ahead online
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A beatbox champion and a guitar master from Bulgaria, a Romanian poet and Bosnian choir - all were due to perform at the left-field Balkan Trafik Festival in Brussels.

The cult event in the Belgian capital has always aimed to showcase artists that might otherwise not reach audiences in Western Europe.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced organisers to postpone the physical event, originally scheduled for 23-26 April. In its place will be an online version.

For the acts themselves, confinement brings back strong memories.

"Our choir was founded under the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina, during 1993, we were founded in a very challenging time, same as this one," says Kenan Hadzifejzovic, a member of the Hazreti Hamza Choir.

"We could not go out like normal people but we had our choir, our singing, inside the protected shelters and we were able to continue to grow culturally and keep our sanity."

For the organiser, it was important to take the festival online, and allow people to immerse themselves in other cultures from the comfort of their sofas.

"It is a new way to communicate and to learn about our neighbours in Europe, it is more a new way to taste the flavour of the Balkans," explains festival founder Nicola Wieers.

For Silvia Grădinaru, a poet from Romania, in times of coronavirus, people must draw on the healing power of art.

"People now than ever need art to process their feelings and whatever is going on and to get a feeling that things don't stop... It is not social distancing, it is physical distancing. We are still together."

The digital festival will live stream performances, debates and video clips from April 23-26.