Polish festival drops Balkan maestro Bregovic over Crimea remarks

Balkan composer Goran Bregovic performing on stage at the Ariston Theatre in Sanremo, during the 62nd Sanremo Music Festival, Italy, on February 16, 2012

A Polish music festival on Thursday said it cancelled an appearance by famous Balkan composer Goran Bregovic over his comments about Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed last year. Poland has been one of Ukraine's strongest supporters over the last year as Ukrainian soldiers have fought pro-Russian separatists in the country's east. Started in 2010, the annual rock music festival takes place in the Polish southern city of Oswiecim, where Nazi Germany built the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during World War II. The Life Festival Oswiecim stands "against war and all forms of aggression, racism, anti-Semitism and human rights violations," the organisers said in a statement on the festival website. Organisers condemned comments made by Sarajevo-born Bregovic, one of the most famous musicians in the Balkans, following a March 26 concert in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. Bregovic was reported to have praised Russia and urged the West to be "cured of its paranoia". "The performer's statements after the concert, during which Bregovic minimised having performed on illegally annexed territory and declined to condemn Russia's armed intervention in Ukraine, run contrary to the values cherished by the Life Festival founders," they said. "We've decided to cancel his planned performance at this year's festival" in June. Born to a Serbian mother and Croatian father, Bregovic rose to international fame after producing the soundtrack to Balkan director Emir Kusturica's award-winning 1995 film "Underground". Bregovic was made a knight of France's order of arts and letters in March for his contribution to popularising Balkan music.