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Toma Sprostranov: “I turned 75 at the stage, Joss Stone was singing for me…”

August 3, 2017 by · No comments

Interview with Toma Sprostranov by Veselina Filipova published in the jubilee book edition “20 years International Jazz Festival Bansko”
112 pages
Compiled by Veselina Filipova
Publisher: Factory for books, Print: BG book ЕАД
ISBN: 978-619-230-008-1
First publication in“Zhalt trud” newspaper, 2016

Jazz Festival Bansko

His name symbolizes artistic longevity. An emblematic DJ, the man-radio. They define Toma Sprostranov as the most recognizable voice in the Bulgarian air. To the listeners he is a legend, and to the International jazz festival in Bansko – the favourite erudite and sweet-talking host.

Toma Sprostranov, photo: BULFOTO

How did your love for the jazz festival started?

It was born at the time it originated. In Bansko, at a magnificent place, I hosted a rock festival. The chief of “Tanne” hotel was bringing groups, starting from the duet Baccara to Ken Hensley (the author of “July morning” and most of “Uriah Heep”s hits). Back then the director of the Jazz festival, Mr. Iliev who was treating with dry needling in his clinic (even at the time Vasko Petrov and Kameliya Todorova used to sing in the living room of the hospital), so the doctor decided to move the party to the square and de facto put the beginning of the Festival in Bansko, 19 years ago.

Curiously enough, in Bansko pop singers like Dancheto Hristova and Lili Ivanova used to sing, as well as Lili Drumeva with her country group. The doctor tried making the Fest resemble Montreux and the other jazz festivals around the world, which also had blues and boogie-woogie performances.

Five times in a row Axel Zwingenberger visited us, the king of boogie woogie piano.

Some big star is our guest every year. The year before the last they were “Incognito” that greeted me on the occasion of my birthday, which was the next day.

This year I was greeted not by some unknown person, but by Joss Stone whose voice, they say, resembles the one of the queen of soul music, Aretha Franklin.

In Nis she performed five songs, and at our place she sang for two hours. It turned out to be a great party. I treated the guests with 10 litres of one great wine. They were all drinking and Joss Stone was singing, so she was the soundtrack, the musical accompaniment, to my birthday that was starting up. Right there, at the stage, I turned 75.

I wish you lots of health! You are famous for being a lucky man, how did that happen?

Many years ago, Teodosiy Spasov, our famous piper, was still a student and came to Plovdiv radio, so I recorded him with the songs of his colleague in university Galin Barnev. Teodosiy performed horo while playing the shepherd’s pipe (I could remember very well that was its name, but performed with jazz rhythm). Oley, they said, how could you ruin the Bulgarian folklore with “dirty” American jazz music.

But he brought down the house and I repeated that in Sofia radio. Ever since then no matter who are the young musicians Teodosiy sees at the entrance of the National radio coming to me, says: “Oh, go see Toma, he brings good luck!” Teodosiy loves using such folk words.

Ever since then you have had special relations with many Bulgarian singers?

Lili Ivanova turned out to be the first I let in my broadcasts. When she was in Plovdiv, I used to invite her over. She was with Zdravko Radoev, who was her boyfriend back then, and she was singing as warmup of the “Northern tigers” from Sweden. Zdravko told me: “Toma, you have all kinds of records, do you have something about a singer, she has very nice voice, strong?” I had some small records of Rita Pavone. They used to call her the “Carrot”, a small Italian that was singing “Cuore” with very strong, insisting voice, a type of uppish.

In just three-months’ time I saw Lili in the summer theatre of Bunardzhika, in Plovdiv. The large posters were announcing: “The Bulgarian Rita Pavone would be singing for you”. She translated those songs in Bulgarian and started with foreign songs, just like Rita.

Everybody starts like the resemblance of someone else. Boreto Godzhunov, who is my friend ever since the army times, started as Elvis, and later on as Tom Jones.

At that time everyone was singing the songs of someone else. They the people who started writing songs for Lili were Toncho Rusev, Mitko Shterev, Nayden Andreev, Gargata. Now they are all giving up on her, hell yes! With her great voice she made all these musicians stars. Nobody would have heard of them, weren’t it for her, the female singer of rare talent! So in addition to Lili, whose who were my guests for the first time were “Shturtsite” (the “Crickets”), FSB…

You enjoy stable relations with foreign artists as well, like Ray Dorset?

I interviewed Ray Dorset from “Mungo Jerry” during the “Golden Orpheus”, some 40 years ago. He had come to a concert for the first time, on his way from Turkey to Romania. Since he had attended the Jazz festival on several occasions, we were close. He brought his wife and his grandchildren. My daughter, my grandchildren, my son was there, our families got to know each other.

In Bansko I met Solomon Burke for the first time, the king of soul and blues music, and boy, he weighs a lot, the whole 240 kilos. He died a year later. They fetched him by car, seated on a huge throne. He shook my hand. Sang at our stage. That year “Shakatak”.

I have loved them for 30 years. A really good musicians come by and I easily befriend them.

Do you have a special favourite among the guests of the Jazz festival?

It was really exciting to shake the hand of Solomon Burke. He is one of the global legends. I exchanged several words with him. I told him I am playing the latest album with country singers that were our guests and he replied “Really?”

Do you know how we met? He arrived by car and they allowed only me to access him. The guards were protecting him. “Good day, I am the host”, and he answered back: “When were you born?” “1941.” “Oh, little baby, little baby”, he laughed. His daughter and his wife were there too, and they prepare his vocals, so they were laughing too. I asked him why he called me “little baby”. “Because I was born in 1940.” So he is one year older than me. He is such a joke teller, a very pleasant guy. And has a huge talent.

What about Joss Stone? God, she is a real miracle! Tall, slim, with waist-long hair, and once she starts singing, wow, such a voice performing incredible songs! Amazing…

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