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.