Contrary to this show’s tagline, there will be gusle, and there will be tamburice today. And a whole other range of instruments that comprise the Goran Bregović Weddings and Funeral Band. Which, as it happens, threw a gig at the Rockhal last night, as part of the CinEast film festival. So, in case you were there, consider this an unscheduled encore. If not, this here show will provide you with the next best thing.
The Weddings and Funerals Band is the latest iteration of the many musical faces of Goran Bregović. That said, “latest” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Brega, as he is affectionately known, has been touring with the bandfor almost 25 years.
The Wedding and Funeral band is, in a way, a by-product of Bregović being intimately involved in writing musical scores for most (if not all) of films by Emir Kusturica. The story of these films was often told though lives of the Roma people. So Bregović started adding more and more elements of Romani music and the trubači phenomenon into his scores.
The Wedding and Funeral band may have been a natural outgrowth of his collaboration with Emir Kusturica. But by that time Bregović was very much in search of a band. After Bijelo Dugme, a massively influential Bosnian rock band disintegrated together with former Yugoslavia, Bregović was looking for ways to continue his solo career. Moving to France helped and working on films helped. But it was only when he leaned totally into Balkan and Romani folk traditions that he found a new musical life. Case in point a song, first released as Đurđevdan, a Bijelo Dugme track. It was then re-released as Ederlezi, a traditional Romani coming-of-age song and then used time and time again.
Wild Wild East
In fact, Bregović’s free-wheeling, larger-than-life approach to making music got him in trouble on more than one occasion. It was one thing to take everything he ever made with Bijelo Dugme, turn it into it’s original folk form and resell it to the naïve Western crowds as the emotional music of the Wild Wild East. It was quite another to get into a copyright dispute with French singer-songwriter Enrico Macias, over a tune where Iggy Pop provides the vocals.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Bregović had to cough up a million euro in damages. But even if he did, it wasn’t the end of him. He is happily touring the world with the Weddings and Funeral band, and doing so in a full or slimmed down complement, depending on the venue. And he continues to perform all the controversial songs, too. Including this next one, which he was accused of lifting from Romani musical legend Šaban Bajramović and which was so massively popular in the Balkans, that Bijelo Dugme is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Goran Bregović.
And that’s all the time we have for today. Check out Goran Bregović and the Weddings and Funeral band on Youtube, Spotify and wherever you get your music from and Balkan Express will be back next week.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.