UMD sits down with Chris Klashoff, a founding member of the Macedonian band Boys from Bouf, as the group celebrates their 40th anniversary. Klashoff describes how what started with a few men who simply enjoyed making music together turned into the hit group we hear play at many events in the Macedonian community today.
The Boys from Bouf is celebrating 40 years – what a momentous occasion! What does celebrating 40 years mean to you personally?
Although it doesn’t feel like 40 years have passed, (because I’ve been doing it week in and week out without a break); but when I sit down and go through the photographs and memories, it certainly has been a long time! I am most proud of our name/brand “The Boys from Bouf”, and that it has survived this long; it’s not a band of individuals, but a band of musicians working as a team to make music. That longevity is what makes me personally proud of our accomplishments.
Tell us who Chris Klashoff is and why he is an integral part of The Boys from Bouf.
I’m a son of immigrant parents from Aegean Macedonia (villages Bouf and Rakovo, Lerinsko region), born in Hamilton, Ontario. From a young age, listening to Macedonian music was a staple in our household, whether it be records on the phonograph, reel to reel tapes, or the radio – we always had the music playing. I’m not sure if I’m “integral”; I just happen to be an original member that has stuck around for forty years and enjoyed every minute of it!
How did you decide on the name “The Boys from Bouf”?
In July of 1979, the band officially formed. The members were: Nikola (Laki) Hulev (Tiolishta, Kostursko), Chris Todorovski (Bouf) and Johnny Todorovski (Bouf). After weeks of practicing in our basements, one day my dad asked: “what are you going to call the band?” We looked at each other with blank faces, as we had no idea what to call ourselves. Then he said, “I hope you don’t mind Laki, but since 3 of you are from Bouf, why don’t you call yourselves The Boys from Bouf?” And that’s how we got our name!
How did The Boys from Bouf originally form?
The man who was instrumental in putting together “The Boys from Bouf” was Nikola Durlov, od selo German (Prespa region, Aegean Macedonia) (current VP of the American Canadian Macedonian Orthodox Church Diocese) and my wife Violet’s, uncle. I had played some small parties with Nikola Hulev, (who was a cousin of Nick Durlov and a drummer). Durlov then said to me one day, “you know the Todorovski brothers?”……well, of course, I “knew them”; from school and church, plus being fellow Boufchani, we would often visit. “Well”, he continued, “Chris bought an organ and Johnny is now learning to play the guitar; maybe you guys should do something together and get Laki to be the drummer”. In the summer of 1979, Sveti Naum had a picnic at Bronte Park, and while Johnny and I were busy playing soccer with the rest of the guys we talked about “getting together and playing some music”; and that’s how it started!
How did you decide what type of music you wanted to play? There was never a question of “what type of music to play”, because we all enjoyed Makedonska narodna muzika (Macedonian national music). Chris and John had a collection of old LP’s played at 78 rpm speed from their grandfather – I also had a bunch of LP’s and 45’s, from my parents and Laki did too…….we spent endless days going through these resources and choosing songs and oros to learn. This was quite the task; there was no Youtube; we would patiently have to wait every week for the Macedonian radio show to air, and would have our tape recorders cued to record the newest music – especially chestitki (congratulatory songs) for weddings – we learned a lot of wedding songs this way! Today’s bands have it very easy!
Has your appreciation and connection to Macedonian culture grown as you have been a part of this band? How do you believe your audiences see The Boys from Bouf?
Yes, it definitely has! The 80’s saw the growth of many music festivals in the republic, like Valandovo, Gocefest, Filigrani, etc., some still exist, but many do not. However, we still have young, talented musicians churning out folk music for future generations to enjoy. I am especially amazed by the transformation of the Macedonian consciousness in Greek occupied Macedonia. Years of discrimination, assimilation, fear-mongering, and other tactics used by the Greek government to eradicate the Macedonians have simply failed! After 113 years of division, the villages and hills are alive with Macedonian music – not just instrumental, but vocal too – songs are being sung, “Kade ste Makedonchinja; Edno ime imame; Biser Balkanski”; the village festivals are crawling with young people attending and performing in dancing groups, featuring all traditional Macedonian dances. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime!! A lot of villagers there say our Boys from Bouf recordings from the 80’s and 90’s inspired them to pay more attention to the patriotic tunes…….our songs “Imeto Makedonsko; Grcite si Zgreshile and Evropo” are very popular and still played there today!
What has been the one most rewarding experience over the past 40 years?
I can’t pick one, because there have been so many – but perhaps the most successful tour we ever did was when we celebrated our 10th year anniversary, in 1989 and invited Vaska Ilieva, Aleksandar Sarievski, Violeta Tomovska, and Blaga Petreska as special guests. Every hall was filled to capacity, especially St. Clements (Toronto) – we had over 900 people jam into the main hall with the overflow going to the balcony. Borche Kulevski caught every minute on film and our master of ceremonies was fellow Boufchanec Sime Milosevski. What a night! What a tour! It was unbelievable! Other performers we had the pleasure to share the stage with were: Duetot Miteva/Uzunov, Goce Nikolovski, Vojo Stojanovski, Petar Necovski, Orce Stevkovski, Petranka Kostandinova, Ferus Mustafov, Vlatko Miladinovski, Spasen Siljanovski, Nino Velickovski, Krume Spasovski, Aleksandar Sarev, Gjoko Doncev, Janko Uzunov, Fana Somova, Sonja Lozanovska, Smilja Andonovska, Misko Krstevski, Mary Minas, Dragan Mijalkovski, Jonce Hristovski, Tuse, Elena Jovcevska, Novica Vasilevski and many more!
What does the future hold for The Boys from Bouf?
We will continue to perform for those that call upon us – providing authentic, LIVE, Macedonian folk music; and perhaps a new CD as well.
How can Macedonians abroad preserve our rich Macedonian heritage moving forward? Any advice for the younger generation?
Become involved in your local church or village association; join the board or volunteer; see what it really takes to be a part of the Macedonian community and find your niche and contribute. Attend the events – bring your families and let the kids meet each other and develop relationships. We have a very special heritage and it would be a shame to just let it go for a lack of participating. The republic is, unfortunately, going through some tough times with its illegitimate government; but this means that us Macedonians in the diaspora must be even stronger and more united than ever before, to show the world that we DO exist and our roots extend back to the days of Alexander the Great, Cyril & Methody, Clement & Naum, Samuil, Delchev, Karev, and Chento! We must be the voice of Macedonia and continue our traditions and celebrate our history!
Any opinions or views expressed in articles or other pieces appearing in UMD Voice are those of the author or interviewees alone and are not necessarily those of the United Macedonian Diaspora and its young leaders’ program Generation M; the appearance of any such opinions or views in UMD Voice is not and should not be considered to be an endorsement by or approval of the same by UMD and Generation M.