Goran Bregovic | Balkans
An energetic encapsulation of Balkan music culture; Goran Bregovic is the type of charismatic individual that fills your soul with joy every time you hear his music. This all round talent has involvement in classical composition, traditional music and contemporary rock. After combining these three musical spheres he delivers some of the most highly spirited music I have come across.
The story of Goran Bregovic begins in the late 1950s, where he learnt to play the violin through a very dry method of theory, thus leaving Sarajevo conservatoire in a state of boredom. His thirst for music began getting quenched after being seduced by the idea of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 60s. He picked up an electric guitar and founded the band Bijelo Dugme (White Button). By 1974 they had released their debut album and won immediate commendation. Over the next 14 years, 12 records and 3 different vocalists, they became one of the most well-renowned touring bands throughout Eastern Europe.
The next challenge that he faced was uniting his beloved gypsy musicians on brass and percussion, a symphonic string section and both male and female voices that hold distinct Balkan characteristics; thus creating ‘The Weddings and Funerals Orchestra’. This ensemble changes size in accordance to what is needed, ranging from 12 and 42 musicians. Goran proudly leads them from centre stage, always suited and wielding an electric guitar. Over the past decade, they have toured throughout every continent of the World, ceaselessly performing over 1200 shows during this time.
When asked about all of the different musical cultures in his sound, and whether it all comes naturally to him, he replied with:
“Well, I am from the borderline, Sarajevo. It has been borderline for five centuries between the Catholics and the Muslims. That’s why we have this terrible history. If you are on the borderline and you are a composer you draw from everything. It is a mixture of Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim religious music, wedding music from Jews, gypsy music. If I concentrate on how to be pure with something, that is impossible.”
Goran’s music involves people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them escape from life’s trivialities in order to simply have a great time. After going to a small village in Bulgaria named Lehchevo, I had the opportunity to really develop a context for his musical atmosphere. This tightly-knit community has a heavy reliance on music; they come together in the centre of the village once every year, in order to celebrate the anniversary of its founding. The people spend the night dancing, drinking and socialising, while soaking in traditional Balkan music. Goran Bregovic provides the perfect setting for this event, getting everyone on their feet in a melee of joyous celebration.
The latest album that he has released is called ‘Champagne for Gypsies’. Here, he pays homage to gypsy musicians from around the world, reacting to the extreme pressures that Roma Gypsies have been experiencing from across Europe (expelled from France and Italy, houses burned in Hungary, beaten in the Balkans). He talks about how this album is here to remind us of our much-loved gypsy musicians, who have left their mark on popular music culture. His Wedding and Funeral Orchestra is joined by a myriad of gypsy talent; including Eugene Hütz (of Gogol Bordello) from Ukraine, Florin Salam from Romania, Selina O’Leary from Ireland and even artists from the Gipsy Kings era, such as Stephan Eicher from Switzerland. With this album he pays a toast to their talent and the inspiration drawn from them across the centuries.
There aren’t many musicians, who have been able to explore music from so many different cultures and still manage to transcend these styles with their identity intact. Goran Bregovic’s music is instantly recognisable and goes to the effort of including all ethnicities, ages, beliefs and tastes. This is what makes him such an inspirational individual as well as a truly great musician.