Can you hear the people sing? Not in Bratislava

Back in May, I got a truly stellar birthday gift: tickets to see Roo Panes, a British singer-songwriter whom I adore, in Bratislava on November 22nd. 

I hadn’t been to a concert in ages and the soft, strumming melodies of Roo Panes had somehow always seemed to be playing in the background when I was in the process of making important life decisions (changing my major to writing, accepting a job in Slovakia, etc). So, you can imagine how excited I was to see him live in Bratislava.

And then, the crushing blow. 

Two weeks ago, Roo Panes cancelled his concert in Bratislava due to fatigue and the need “to get back into some natural Rhythms for a period of time.” 

Sadly, cancelled concerts are becoming a trend in Bratislava. Back in February, fans waited in the Ondrej Nepela Ice Hockey Stadium, the go-to venue for large concerts, for what was promised to be an epic concert by American rapper Nicky Minaj. Four hours after the show was supposed to begin, Minaj finally came out on stage only to announce that the concert was cancelled due to an “electrical problem”.

XL Promotion, the agency that organised the concert, offered a different explanation, claiming the concert did not take place due to the unprofessional conduct of her team. Some speculate Minaj did not want to perform in an arena that wasn’t sold out; her reported confusion of what city she was in certainly did not help her cause. 

Although I am still a fan of Roo Panes’ music and can accept his plea for more rest, it stings every time one of his songs come on, which seems to happen more frequently now. I swear Spotify is taunting me at this point. 

It also doesn’t help that he is still performing in almost every other city included within his European tour. That doesn’t sound all that restful, Mr. Panes.

My tune has turned bitter, I know, but I feel Bratislava is drawing too many similarities to Jonas, the protagonist of the Giver. Like him, the city is grasping for music, the uplifting and connecting force that it is, only to hear the familiar notes carried away with the wind. I’ve heard one too many Slovak drinking songs to remember what good music, sung in the flesh, sounds like. 

Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé made the trip to Bratislava once, and while I doubt that playing to modest crowds in a small European capital was the highlight of their careers, I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have meant to the concert-goers that watched the global superstars perform live, right in front of them.

A small city like Bratislava will not make the rich man richer nor shine a bright spotlight on pop stars-to-be. But, if music is art and art is an expression of humanity in all of its fragility and tenacity, who could possibly be more deserving of a good concert than a city that has survived two world wars, fascist and communist rule, the firm and demanding hand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Nicki Minaj fiasco of 2018? We inhabitants of beautiful Bratislava need some poetry of the soul, a remedy for the ears, an anthem for an underdog that’s been abandoned in empty stadiums for far too long.

So, if there is an artist out there who is willing to perform for the little engine that could of European cities, we would be happy to lend an ear. 

Just a little note,



  1. Ted

    Though sad for your reasons thanks for sharing Roo Panes. My partner in Two’s Company was a master of classical guitar but occasionally played the 12 string. Listening to Roo touched memorable chords.


  2. Ted Aldrich

    Anna, I got a kick out of the fact that I enjoyed listening to Roo Panes three hours before you inspired checking out his music… Keene has better luck than Bratislava thanks in large part to the Colonial Theatre and Keene State. Music is such an important part of our lives Bratislava is lucky to have you lobbying for making the world go round! Love, T

    Sent from my iPad



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