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Lipa's jazz dream comes true in capital

AFTER a visit to the music clubs of Vienna, Budapest or Prague, the winter days may seem sad and gloomy in Bratislava by comparison. And quiet - except for some live music sporadically performed in downtown bars such as Aligátor or the Jazz Cafe, sceptics say Bratislava does not much to offer. Even jazz, one of the main genres of the central European musical landscape, is not often heard.
Much, therefore, is expected from Metro, a new club in Bratislava's downtown opened this February by Peter Lipa, a Slovak jazz legend. Metro is in a renovated basement in the Slovenská sporiteľňa bank building opposite the Fórum Hotel on the Presidential Palace square. The interior is modern, with the only concession to a traditional club atmosphere being a small stage slightly set apart from the audience.


Peter Lipa has finally opened a jazz hall in Bratislava after seven years of trying.
photo: Ján Svrček


"If I have a cultural institution in the centre of the town then I need money, not somebody to suck it out of me."

Jazz concert hall owner Peter Lipa


AFTER a visit to the music clubs of Vienna, Budapest or Prague, the winter days may seem sad and gloomy in Bratislava by comparison. And quiet - except for some live music sporadically performed in downtown bars such as Aligátor or the Jazz Cafe, sceptics say Bratislava does not much to offer. Even jazz, one of the main genres of the central European musical landscape, is not often heard.

Much, therefore, is expected from Metro, a new club in Bratislava's downtown opened this February by Peter Lipa, a Slovak jazz legend. Metro is in a renovated basement in the Slovenská sporiteľňa bank building opposite the Fórum Hotel on the Presidential Palace square. The interior is modern, with the only concession to a traditional club atmosphere being a small stage slightly set apart from the audience.

"I would prefer this to be a concert hall, rather than a club where music is played only once or twice a month. And there is also no other place in Bratislava where music is played on stage," says Lipa.

Following decades in which Lipa played an active role in the jazz scene, his club will be a meeting point for different generations playing different music styles, the vocalist says.

"During the late 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s I was singing each Friday in a place called V-Club. Those days also saw the birth of the idea for Bratislava's Jazz Days festival, which is now a tradition.

"Then, every Thursday for 15 years through the 1980s into the 1990s I played at a little place called Mamut. I educated three generations of university students from all over Slovakia, and we still talk about those days," he says.


"If my name is behind this project," says Lipa, "this will be a concert venue."
photo: Ján Svrček

The Metro club was opened after seven years of financial and legislative obstacles. Lipa blames the town's officials for their lack of support for jazz as a culture.

"At the very beginning I offered co-operation to the town, but it didn't work. Then I had to find a partner who would invest Sk10 million ($210,000). The real problem was that the place had to be rented, it wasn't my property. Then the project was stopped in 2000 because of problems my partners were having. I was fined Sk100,000 for not opening the club on time. So, understandably, by the end of 2001 I was trying really hard to open," says Lipa.

The other obstacle Lipa struck was a town edict saying that up to 25 per cent of ticket sales issued for cultural activities had to go to the municipal budget. While the revenues raised from this charge represent less than one percent of Bratislava's budgetary income, it is a significant loss for club owners.

"They're taking a cut from the door, so I will have to explain to them that this is business. If I have a cultural institution in the centre of the town then I need money, not somebody to suck it out of me. Jazz music has never had support, and the authorities still don't understand that it's not some kind of subversive activity aimed against somebody. Few clubs in Bratislava charge admission, and musicians are usually paid from beverage sales. But that's not the way to treat music. People have to be aware that if they want to see musicians, they have to pay for the privilege."

Hlava 22 (Catch 22), a literary-music club opened last September on Bazová Street in the Bratislava Old Town, faces the same problems. "As a literary club we try to organise cultural events, to give some space to people who want to do something, and I don't understand why we have to hand over a percentage of our ticket sales. As a company we regularly pay taxes, so I'm really not sure why we have to give an additional 10 percent," says Peter Bódy, the director of the club.

Town officials, for their part, say they are ready to make exceptions. "All cultural institutions have to give 10 per cent of their ticket sales. The only exception are for theatres, to help them to cope with serious financial problems. But last year there were some events in Bratislava of cultural and social importance such as the Festival of Celtic Arts, when we again made an exception. So I think it's possible to make an exception also in Lipa's case if he were to organise something," says Milan Vajda, the Bratislava Old Town spokesperson.

The show, however, is expected to go on regardless. "The club is open, but this is only the beginning," says Lipa. "Now we have to find sponsors. If my name is behind this project, this won't be a pub but a concert venue. I'm confident that I will manage it somehow. Mondays will be reserved for young musicians, I'll sing on Wednesday, and luck will look after the program for the rest of the week. Of course I plan to have guest acts from abroad. I know many people and have had a lot of offers."

In the meantime, Bratislava's club owners and musicians are waiting to see what happens with Metro. "Lipa has been trying to open this for seven years. Finally he has succeeded, and I can only keep my fingers crossed for him. Bratislava has some clubs where jazz was played or still is played, but there are fewer and fewer of them. Because of financial problems, of course," says Bódy.

Address: Underground on Suché mýto, entrance from Slovenská sporiteľňa building
opposite the Hotel Fórum in the direction of Drevená ulica
Open: Sun-Thu 14:00-1:00, Fri-Sat 14:00-3:00
Jam sessions on Monday, Peter Lipa on Wednesdays, different performances on Thursdays
Music program and ticket information not available when The Slovak Spectator went to print

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