Posts Tagged ‘balkan music’


From an entire night of a capella magnificence and magic at DROM.
Here are Svetlana’s notes on the song:
“The song in honour of Serbian Scientist Nikola Tesla, made by my old godfather Milan Bilbija from Cirkin Polje, Prijedor, Bosnian Krajina.  He died in 2008. Melody made by Svetlana Spajic”

The brief shot of the overhead image of the gusle, the Serbian instrument upon which the epic singers (guslars) play, with image of Tesla, is the property of multi-instrumentalist Darco Macura, who I finally met face to face along with Svetlana, in Belgrade in 1997. I had used several of his musical performances in a compilation of music I was producing. He was also Svetlana’s first mentor.

lyric translation by Svetlana Spajic:

My soul is in pain, but I sing this song, I sing the song from Nikola Tesla

Oh Nikola, brilliant and smart, you invented electric power, magnetic waves and transformers

Oh Nikola if you’d lived longer, you would have made electric power from the sun.  Where are you now?

Where are your New York doves? Does the new America remember you?

Scientists don’t care for monuments; yours, Nikola, stands at Niagara Falls.

Oh Nikola, from the village of Smiljan, the gusle is adorned with your image.

Oh Nikola, it doesn’t matter that you are a Serb, the generations of the world will remember you!

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From a performance of a capella folk music from Serbia, Dalmatia and Bosnia at DROM.

I first contacted Svetlana in 1995-6 when I was putting together a compilation of music from formerly Soviet countries, called “Unblocked: Music of Eastern Europe.”

At the time it was very difficult to get recordings from these areas, as faxing was frequently hindered by poor telephone systems and modem connections, and email was not widespread there to say the least. Dead of night telephone calls were the most common ways to connect. Svetlana was introduced to me by Bojan Djordjevic, organizer of the Ring Ring festival in Belgrade. She in turn helped me to get some wonderful tracks from her mentor, Darco Macura. When I visited them all in Belgrade, in 1997, Svetlana was my guide and hostess for much of my stay. She was just starting out in her career dedicated to studying the folk songs of Serbia, but when she sang to me, I could hear an extraordinary voice that was perfect for the music. I was very happy to have the opportunity to shoot her group at WOMEX, and her solo show at DROM, here in NYC.

About the song, from Ms. Spajic’s notes:
“”I would sing but I have no leading one, I would dance but I have no shoes.”
Ancient “prostrelica” (mountain shaking singing) of wife and husband Stana and Nikola Kostic from the village of Gustovare, Western Bosnia. The photo projected above is of Duka and Durica Radmilovic, from the village of Zegar, Dalmatia parents of 13 children. ”

For them, solitude must have been precious.. 😉

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I first encountered the Hurdy-Gurdy eons ago at a concert by Gabriel Yacoub at the French Institute here in NYC. He was accompanied by Giles Chabenat on the instrument and I was immediately taken with what Yacoub described as “the medieval synthesizer.” It had a sound that was simultaneously ancient and immediate, and I never forgot it.

Fast forward, and another great master of the instrument, Matthias Loibner, was coming to town. I was not that familiar with his work, or his duo with Bosnian singer Natasa Mirkovic-DeRo, but it was intriguing to be told that while they would be presenting a folk repertoire at Joe’s Pub, they would be performing a classical program at the Austrian Cultural Forum the next night. (Both were part of the Forum’s very varied programming.)

From the night at Joe’s Pub, here’s a simply wonderful performance of “Magla Padnala” a folksong that is attributed to Macedonia – albeit not without local controversy!  Loibner uses loops and computer generated effects to achieve a Fripp-like stratospheric setting for Ms. Mirkovic-DeRo’s formidable vocal chops.

What is apparent from this video is that in the hands of the right musician, the Hurdy-Gurdy is a fully modern instrument, and not a relic from another time. And if you want to know more about Mr. Loibner and the Hurdy-Gurdy, you can learn more here.

Also, the venerable Rootsworld website has published an article and CD overview of Loibner’s oeuvre.

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.