Current Issue #488

Goran Bregović’s notes from Sarajevo

Goran Bregović’s notes from Sarajevo

As part of his “ongoing world-wide tour” Balkan musician Goran Bregović returns to Adelaide with songs from one of his most impressive records to date: Three Letters from Sarajevo.

Born and raised in Sarajevo, Bregović initially found fame as leader of the hard rock and new wave band Bijelo Dugme before becoming a soundtrack composer of note on acclaimed films such as Time of the Gypsies and Queen Margot. But it is as a performer of Gypsy and Balkan music that he is best known, with albums such as Tales and Songs from Weddings and Funerals and Champagne for Gypsies, and playing live as the leader of the Wedding and Funeral Band, which energetically fuses traditional Eastern European and Gypsy brass with up to 19 members on stage. In 2018, Bregović recorded his most personal record to date, Three Letters from Sarajevo, which he will perform in its entirety when his orchestra returns to Adelaide for the first time since performing two shows (WOMADelaide and the Festival Theatre) here in 2013.

“The program varies, but the emphasis is, of course, on my last album Three Letters from Sarajevo – all pieces will be performed,” Bregović says of the current live show. “Not forgetting favourites from the previous albums.”

Bregović grew up in a Sarajevo surrounded by the music of Christians, Jews and Muslims who co-existed in the city decimated by the Bosnian War, which began in the early 90s. His latest album is a metaphor for the three religious groups living peacefully and side-by-side.

“On this album violin is played in three manners: the classical way that the Christians play; klezmer, the way the Jews play it; and the oriental way, the way Muslims play it. So, I was commissioned to write a violin concerto and I made it in the form of three letters: Muslim, Christian and Jewish. I wrote it for performers who specialise in this manner of playing plus a symphony orchestra and my band.

“This album is like a message in a bottle: what I did was impossible in religion or in politics, but in music when you put together those things that never go together in real life, it somehow sounds harmonious. So, of course, this is like a small utopian message in a bottle, where a composer, me, imagines that probably one day this world could be like an orchestral score where high notes go well with the low notes, where pianissimo goes very well with fortissimo. Of course, it is utopian, but this world will never move on without utopia. I have this privilege that I can imagine a world that could one day be like this – in the past you just killed what was different and in the 21st century we have to learn how to live harmoniously with our differences.”

Even though Bregović doesn’t live in Sarajevo, he is still connected to the city.

“Sarajevo is a small town, but it has a kind of glue and you are glued to this small town for all your life – this is what happened to me,” he says. “So even though I don’t live there, I have never been completely healed from being a citizen of Sarajevo. Being from Sarajevo is diagnostic, not just something simple. But Sarajevo I use as a metaphor, not as a name of a town because I think Sarajevo could be a metaphor for our times where today we can be good neighbours and tomorrow start shooting each other. This is something we have seen in Europe, almost around the world everywhere. And we saw this for the first time in Sarajevo in 1991. So, I use Sarajevo as a metaphor.”

Bregovic reveals that a follow-up album to Three Letters from Sarajevo is on its way.

“The second part, Opus 2, will be out next year and it will be the complete violin concerto as it was originally commissioned for three violin solos with a symphony orchestra, my small band and six male singers.”

Goran Bregović and his Wedding and Funeral Band
Thebarton Theatre
Friday, May 10

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