Performance Wednesday, October 19, 2011 | 8 PM

Goran Bregovic & His Wedding and Funeral Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Boisterous fun! A brass band that wanders the stage, Bulgarian backup singers in traditional garb and a tuxedo-clad male choir, pulsating drums and electric guitar—all led by the Balkans’ impish musical jokester and mastermind, Goran Bregovic. You may not understand what he’s singing, but you’ll get the message: Whether things are good or bad, it’s time to party!


  • Goran Bregovic, Composer


  • Goran Bregovic

    Born in Sarajevo to a Serbian mother and a Croatian father, Goran Bregovic formed his first group, Bijelo Dugme, at the age of 16. Bijelo Dugme's rock 'n' roll style was influenced by the desire for Bregovic and his friends to find an outlet for self-expression. As he explains, "In those times, rock had a capital role in our lives. It was the only way we could make our voices heard and publicly express our discontent without risking jail."

    Bregovic toured with Bijelo Dugme for 15 years before taking time off to compose music for Emir Kusturica's film, Time of the Gypsies. He went on to compose for several other films and also played leading roles-in addition to composing the music-in the films I giorni dell'abbandono and Music for Weddings and Funerals.

    In 1995, Bregovic began performing live with more than 100 musicians in mega-concerts given in Greece, Sweden, and Belgium. By 1997, he reduced the size of the orchestra to 50 musicians and performed a concert of his film music. A successful European tour with his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra followed, showcasing some of Bregovic's most beautiful pieces, including "Ederlezi," "In the Death Car," and "Kalashnikov." A concert stop at the Piazza San Giovanni in Rome drew more than 500,000 fans, confirming Bregovic's international success.

    In 2002, Bregovic was commissioned by the Festival de Saint-Denis in Paris to create a special work, which he called My Heart Has Become Tolerant. The program was also performed that year at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, the Esplanade of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco.

    In 2004, Bregovic composed his first opera, Goran Bregovic's Karmen with a Happy End. The gypsy opera has been performed more than 100 times since its debut. In 2005, the now legendary Bijelo Dugme reunited for a sold-out tour of three former Yugoslav capitals. The success of the shows proved that Bregovic's music had the power to unite people through his heritage-rich sound. Bregovic brought the tour to North America in 2006, performing extraordinary concerts at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Chicago's Millennium Park, and New York's Lincoln Center Festival.

    Bregovic's new album, Champagne for Gypsies, is scheduled for release in 2012, representing a reaction to the extreme pressure and discontent that Gypsies have experienced across Europe.

    More Info


Goran Bregovic
Wrasse Records

About the Artist

The work of Goran Bregovic, one of the preeminent figures in Balkan music, tells the story of a people who dared to live a dream of their own design in a particular time in post-war Europe. From 1974–1989, in the midst of socialist kitsch and with the country’s élan in decline, Bregovic single-handedly conjured the birth of sympho-rock in the former Yugoslavia. His music unified the identity-seeking expressions of early industrialization, independent political progress, and spiritual freedom by weaving progressive rock with the mythology of the land.

Bregovic’s band, Bijelo Dugme, gathered 75,000 people at a Woodstock-like concert in 1977—an event unheard of in the fledgling independent state amidst the iron curtain of Eastern Europe. It ushered the legends of mountain nymphs through the Russo-German influences in classical music and the British rock iconography to a youth eager to reinvent itself. There was one place essential for the cultural navigation of such ideas: Sarajevo, the city of Bregovic’s birth, signified a pluralistic society and a possibility for a pluralistic world. Bijelo Dugme went on to release 13 albums, becoming a household name throughout the Balkans. The band stopped touring in 1989, and in 2005 reunited for a sold-out reunion with concerts in Sarajevo, Zagreb, and Belgrade—the capitals of the three former Yugoslav republics.

After the fall of Yugoslavia, Bregovic relocated to Paris and Belgrade, and continued to compose for film and large ensembles in the idiomatically similar veins of ethnic music of Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece, bringing the voice of a unique land to the world stage. His hugely successful collaboration with filmmaker Emir Kusturica on Time of the Gypsies (1988), Arizona Dream (1993), and Underground (1995), opened doors to creating film scores for Patrice Chéreau’s Queen Margot (1994), Nana Djordjadze’s A Chef in Love (1997) and 27 Missing Kisses (2000), and Radu Mihăileanu’s Train of Life (1998). The films garnered several Palme d’Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Guldbagge Award in Sweden for Best Foreign Film.

In recent years, Bregovic has toured extensively throughout Europe and South America—plus numerous visits to Israel, Singapore, Taipei, Seoul, Montreal, Chicago, and New York—with his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra, a one-of-a-kind concoction of conservatory-trained and folk-based musicians and singers. He has also worked with such varied artists as Iggy Pop, Cesária Évora, Ofra Haza, and Kristjan Järvi’s Absolute Ensemble.

Known for unabashedly uniting monotheistic religions and hybridizing the musically rich and ritual-laden heritage of the Balkans with the sensibilities of the West, Bregovic marshals the language that pushes the boundaries between concert hall and club, urban and rural, sacred and secular, political and anarchistic, ultimately enlightening those who hear his song.

—Svjetlana Bukvich-Nichols

Goran Bregovic: Gas, Gas, Gas
This performance is part of Around the Globe.