Mostar Sevdah Reunion
Amira was born at a time when the popularity of traditional music in the former Yugoslavia was at high tide, and sevdah held a special place for her. For her, sevdalinka were the most beautiful of songs. Amira’s fascination with the beauties of the oral tradition of Bosnia and Herzegovina led her to devote herself to creating a special artistic language, a language which was not subject to new musical fashions, or compromised to fit existing models. She had spent years searching in vain for to find people who shared her ideas about sevdah, and for the best way to present it, the reason why she had never really attempted anything before. But now everything was different. Working with the MSR team was to be the long awaited consummation of her desire, and for Amira, the start of a new, fast friendship.
The Story on the album Rosa,
It all began in April 2002. Amira, a young woman from Sarajevo, set off for Mostar to ask the MSR musicians to help her record a sevdalinka, that most moving of Bosnian musical forms. All that Amira had ever recorded before were a few demos. At the time MSR were working flat out to record Ljiljana Buttler’s album in the Neretva studios and were pressed for time, faced with recording deadlines and the tour which was to follow.
To be honest, it was hard to imagine a young woman of 28 being able to sing sevdah as it should be sung without the years of study and experience which had previously been thought essential for its interpreters. Perhaps rather dismissively, and warily, they agreed that accordionist Mustafa Šanti} and Amira should try one sevdalinka together. But once the first lines of “Pšeni~ice sitno sjeme” (Little Grain of Wheat) had been sung by a voice of crystalline purity accompanied by the accordion, everything was clear. Questions fol- lowed: “Who are you?”, “Where have you come from?”, “Where have you been all this time?”, and the words “miraculous” and “awesome” were repeated over and over again. But the real miracle right then was hearing the incredible bond between MSR’s playing and Amira’s singing. No-one then could have imagined what would grow from the meeting of an unknown singer from Sarajevo and a company of exceptional artists who had gathered for a single purpose, but there was a sense that another gate was opening, leading into another world of women’s sevdah, beyond the bounds of space or time. After this, words were needless; it was clear to everyone that they would have to work together, no matter what.
It’s hard to imagine that a album like this could have been recorded in such a short space of time. Five days spent in Mostar, with a total of 72 hours in the studio, and it was done, the close of a year and a half of lengthy preparations in which many almost impassable obstacles had to be faced and overcome. Previous Mostar Sevdah Reunion (MSR) projects and collaborations with Šaban Bajramovic and Ljiljana Buttler had demonstrated producer Dragi Šestic’s determination to do the impossible. This time was to be no exception. The money problems that constantly dogged the project meant that recording had to be put off twice, and then, when funding was finally assured, some of the musicians who had originally been booked had to cancel because they were touring, or involved in other projects. So once again Dragi had to find performers capable of realizing his concept and his vision, and devise a timetable that would allow everyone to arrive from all over Europe. If any one of the 15 musicians taking part had been unavailable, the project could never have been carried through. Fortunately for Dragi and Amira, things became much easier when everyone confirmed that they would be coming. The place of the recording was another source of headaches. Post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country in transition, latches onto any problems that might exist, and proceeds to multiply them.
So given all of this, why choose Mostar again? It would have been far simpler, and quicker, to have made the album in another town, in another country. Regardless of the major problems, doing so would have avoided the dozens of lesser ones that stood in the way. However, there was something else involved. In a way, Mostar has become holy ground for recording albums of music from the Balkans. It’s impossible to escape the impression that the company of friends gathered under the trademark of MSR, and the whole concept of understanding sevdah in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a specific, native, form of musical expression, have managed to open a door to the world. The reasons for such a project as this coming into being are surely unique. If you remember that, although everyone came from different musical worlds, they had all gathered together around a single idea, to play some- thing that held a special place, deep in their hearts, then you might well say that the story of this project was an incredible one. MSR have two of their own albums behind them, plus another two come-back albums by two great artists, standard-bearers of Gypsy music from the Balkans – and with sweeping success, at that. Until recently the linguistic and cultural barriers were too great for the world to really get to know the music from these parts. The credit goes to MSR, who have now opened the way for Amira too.
Produced by Dragi Sestic
Executive producers : Bekim Medunjanin and Chris van den Hoogen
Recorded in November 2003 at studio “Neretva”- Pavarotti Music Centre- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sound engineer – Sasa Karabatak
Assistant engineer- Armin Mustafic
Mixed and mastered by Chris Beckers at “Beau Garage Studio”- Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Set down, set down bright sun,
Set down, blackout
And you clear moonlight too
Run away, drown yourself
Sorrow- forest, sorrow- my sister,
Let us sorrow together
You- for your leaves, forest
Me- for my youth.
Your leaves, forest – my sister,
Are going to get back to you
My youth, forest – my sister,
It’s not coming back.