I frequently write about the contemporary Macedonian scene. I compile lists, review records, play Macedonian music on the only alternative radio station in Macedonia (Kanal 103), and—most importantly—I consider myself (in some small and marginal way) a part of that scene. With that in mind, writing this article was not an easy task, seeing that it's purpose is introducing that same scene to people who are mostly unfamiliar with it. To keep the list interesting, I tried to make it diverse—with genres like contemporary classical, electronic, dance, punk, new wave, and metal—and I tried to keep it as short as possible, including only artists that have at least one LP to their name and are still actively working.
(psychedelic death metal, post-metal)
A very interesting band, and one that will surely excite not just metal fans, but everyone who remotely likes guitar music. Their only LP so far, 2011's Monuments is a fluent 40-minute piece that's a fine example of the copious amounts of creativity and talent in some of our artists.
(contemporary classical, electroacoustic, experimental)
The bastard child of the Macedonian classical elite: a composer that releases records through a label (PMG Recordings) that made its name by releasing dance and techno records (though their roster is a bit more diverse nowadays). Pejovski's output consists of five LPs of diverse musical forms.
(post-punk, new wave, dance punk)
By far the most popular contemporary Macedonian band, Bernays Propaganda's music sounds poppy and catchy, but with an angst that reveals its members' deep punk roots. Also important for their unprecedented amount of touring—closing in on 500 shows through Europe and the USA. The members have also made a name for themselves in other bands such as Xaxaxa and FxPxOx.
(gothic, folk punk, outsider art)
The solo project of one Vladimir Muratovski—a social poet and chronicler of the Macedonian underground scene. His only LP, Mirovna Poraka, recorded in 1992, has been best described as, "Savant-garde, almost sacred, deep, yet narrow. An archaic, repetitive scribble with a hypnotic quality. Skopje's underground is a cold, lonely place (and the walls are screaming)." How's that for great expectations?
(jazz, electroacoustic, neo-cabaret)
Foltin is one of the most lauded bands in the history of Macedonian music. No list of this kind would be complete without them. Although they lost their mass appeal around the time of their third and most acclaimed album, Donkey Hot (2003), their constant reinventions and sonic experiments have kept them relevant to this day.
(neo-punk, melodic hardcore)
Fonija is fierce and powerful, yet melodic and passionate—a band that started as the most pointless, generic California punk trio, and later found their ground in a harsher, but more emotionally resonant melodicore. Their two latest records are highly recommended.
(ambient, drone, experimental)
Fydhws is a one-man project: ambient and drone, processed guitars, and walls of the least noisy noise in universe. Fans of both ambient and no wave should be pleasantly surprised.
The John & Space Rebel Gang
(indie, psychedelic, surf, dance-punk)
Quiet noise for export. The John & Space Rebel Gang is the most Skopje of all Skopje bands.
Black metal is easily the most misunderstood genre of the last 30 years, and Maras is not about to change that. If anything they make matters more confusing by infusing black metal with the obscure Macedonian folk idiom and the bleakness of the orthodox chanting. A perfect soundtrack for your neighborhood's friendly pagan rituals.
(gothic rock, darkwave)
Probably the most influential Macedonian band of all time. Starting in 1983, the band has gone through several "revelations"—with varying success—and has released five LPs. Though their recent activity has caused some controversy, they remain the only name on this list that could be considered widely known. Members of Mizar have gone through various other influential (but currently defunct) bands, most notably Kismet, Anastasia, and Arhangel.
(post-punk, shoegaze, noise)
Walls of guitar noise, effects, barely audible vocals, hypnotic beats, and VOLUME! A gang of underground all-stars revolving around an idea, releasing seven albums in nine years and exiting audiences with every single one of them. Since reducing their concert activity to one gig a year, their shows have been parades of the greatest cult figures of Macedonian alternative music—all of them collaborators of Mooger Fooger.
(experimental folk, jazz )
A few months ago, a barely known 40-something released a record that floored everyone with its impressive technique and fluency on the guitar, mandolin, and stringed folk instruments. An artist that barely fits any classification. Greatest rhythm guitarist in the world?
(indie techno, dance punk)
Danceable techno meets indie meets new wave with monotonous droning vocals spitting out some of the greatest lyrics of the Skopje dialect. Evolving through their impressive discography of five albums in five years (plus a myriad of EPs, singles, and whatnot), they're the musical equivalent of the ugly duckling fable—only the duckling doesn't grow to be a swan, it's still an ugly little duck. Only darker and angrier. Case in point. Love them or hate them, PMG is fabulous (and here to stay)!
An underground hero and the most respected electro producer of the last 15 years. His releases have been sparse, but consistently top quality. A good place to start exploring the sophisticated opus of Mr. Goran Atanasovski is his latest LP, Electric Dawn.
(contemporary jazz, experimental)
Punk jazz is a pretty established (sub)genre nowadays, but 20 years ago it was a novelty, at least around Skopje. Sethstat is still widely misunderstood, but they've kept their ground with their unique sound and powerful live performances.