"Thumping brass band tunes with searing trumpet solos riding roughshod over a hypnotic drumbeat"
I'm getting married and I need an idea to make the day a little different?
Congratulations, what you need is a wedding band.
I've already bought the ring; I was thinking of something more unusual.
No, a musical band to create a joyous party atmosphere.
OK, I was thinking of a small quartet playing Andrew Lloyd Webber hits.
Please! A wedding is supposed to be a celebration, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To find that special spark, I suggest you go to Serbia.
Serbia, the big brother of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There, you will find the most exciting, life-enhancing wedding bands in the world.
Yes, but do they play Dancing Queen?
They can play anything, but you are better off sticking to what they specialise in.
Which is what?
Thumping brass band tunes with searing trumpet solos riding roughshod over a hypnotic drumbeat. The sure-fire crowd-pleasers are the local dance tunes, the catchy cocek or the bubbling kolo.
Aren't brass bands a bit stiff for a wedding?
Not these bands. The most alluring exponents, from the Roma (gipsy) community, bring an explosive energy and exotic orientalism to the music. They manage to weave a range of human emotions into the brass sound that takes it far beyond its military roots. The Eastern influences are so pronounced that the result is more harem than Harrogate.
So where can I get hold of these demons?
You must go to the small town of Guca in the rural district of Dragacevo, western Serbia, for the annual brass band festival. The action takes place during the second weekend of August with more than 40 of the country's best orchestras (as they are known) competing for prizes.
Is it popular?
Immensely; the town is packed with more than 300,000 visitors during the three days of the festival.
Wow, all brass band fans?
Not all are aficionados - most come just for the party atmosphere. The music is very accessible so if you don't know the steps to the traditional cocek, you can always just jiggle about.
And is it mainly jiggling Serbians?
Yes, rural Serbs are in the majority and part of Guca's charm is that it still has the atmosphere of a local country fair (although there has been an increase in international interest recently).
Why all the fresh attention?
Peace helps, but much of it has been generated by the international success of the Yugoslav film director, Emir Kusturica.
How is he connected?
His movies, such as Time of the Gypsies and Underground, invariably feature a raucous wedding scene with a Roma orchestra hammering out wild trumpet tunes. Foreign visitors come to experience this joyous music at its source.
Do they find it?
By the bucketful, and the tune Wedding-Cocek from Underground has become the unofficial festival anthem, booming out from sound systems and bootleg CD stalls.
There is a market at the festival?
Yes; sometimes it feels as if the competition is just an adjunct to the non-stop street party.
What are they selling?
Tractor parts are very popular, and then there are plastic trumpets, blow-up Dalmatian dogs, giant watermelons, wooden pictures of saints and war criminals in bottles of slivovitz, curly leather sandals, bubbling pots of wedding cabbage and an endless supply of spit-roasted meat.
How do I choose my wedding band?
You can follow the virtuosity at the official competition or, for more impromptu magic, look on the fringes. Take a seat by the main church, order a beer and then make a request. A 10-piece brass orchestra three feet away from your ear is something to experience - and you'll soon know if you want them to strut their stuff for your wedding.
What about paying?
Twenty euros (about £12) will usually get you a good blast. If you want more, the convention is to stuff bank-notes into the brass horns or, better still, dip them in your beer before slapping them on the trumpet player's forehead.
I like it; how do I book my favourite orchestra for the wedding?
Easy, all the bands for hire have their contact numbers plastered on their big base drum. You'll have to get a Serbo-Croat speaker to sort out the precise details of time, place and fee.
What is the standard fee for a wedding do?
It varies according to how well they have done in the competition. Part of the festival's function is to act as an orchestral trade show, with promoters and producers booking the best bands. The winner of the Golden Trumpet will certainly have no problem finding work and will command high fees. Another big consideration is the extras bill. A 10-piece band can eat and drink their way through a wedding buffet in a couple of hours. Then there is the issue of accommodation, travelling expenses and visas. A lot of money and effort, but it's well worth it.
Sounds like I'm going over my budget.
In that case, my advice is to move your wedding to Guca. It will certainly make the day a little different.