G oran Bregovic describes himself simply as contemporary composer. Why then does his “contemporary” sound different from music of other contemporary composers?
Because Goran is from the Balkans. And in the Balkans “contemporary” is different.
What does his orchestra for Weddings and Funerals composed of a gypsy brass band, traditional Bulgarian polyphonies, an electric guitar, traditional percussion, strings and Orthodox Church male singers, read on Bregovic’s score sheets? Echoes from Jewish and Gypsy weddings, chants from Orthodox and Catholic Church, Muslim invocations. His music comes from that terrible frontier where for centuries Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims made war and lived together. Music that our soul recognises instinctively and the body greets with an irresistible urge to dance.
B orn in Sarajevo of a Serbian mother and a Croatian father. After a few years of (very
unenthusiastic) music studies at the conservatory (violin), Goran forms his first group “The White Button” at the age of sixteen. Composer and guitar player (“I chose the guitar because guitar players always have most success with girls”), he admits his immoderate love for rock n'roll. "In those times, Rock had a capital role in our lives. It was the only way we could make our voice heard, and publicly express our discontent without risking jail (or just about)..."
Studies of philosophy and sociology would most certainly have landed him teacher of Marxist thought, had the gigantic success of his first record not decided otherwise. Follow fifteen years with his group "The White Button", marked by marathon-tours and endless sessions of autographing in which Goran plays youth idol in Eastern countries until he's sick and tired of it.
At the end of the eighties BREGOVIC takes time away from this permanent hustle-bustle to compose music for Kusturica’s "Times of the Gypsies", and to make his childhood dream come true: to live in a small house on an island in the Adriatic. The War in Yugoslavia shatters this, and many other dreams, and Goran has to abandon everything to find exile in Paris… starting point for roaming the world with his music that made him a honorary citizen of Buenos Aires, Tirana and Athens and honorary Doctor of Music from Sheffield University, UK.
MUSIC FOR MOVIES
Coming from the same background, the same generation, survivors of the same experiences, Goran BREGOVIC and Emir KUSTURICA formed a tandem which didn’t need words to communicate. After “Times of the Gypsies” Goran had a free hand to compose the original soundtrack for “Arizona Dream”. The music lives up to the film – poetical, original and incredibly enhancing. “One of the great things about Emir’s movies is that they show life exactly as it is – full of holes, hesitations and unexpected events. It’s this imperfect, unorganised side that I wanted to preserve above all. Even the songs recorded with Iggy are very under-produced. There’s just his voice and behind it a gypsy-orchestra blowing into old pre-war trumpets and cow’s horns. It’s really very simple.”
Patrice Chereau entrusts him with the music for “La Reine Margot”, Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994. Goran delivers a majestic piece with rock accents.
The music for Emir Kusturica’s “Underground”, Palme d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, was also signed by Goran. But not the following film. A three year collaboration on “Underground” has worn everyone out and Emir has to find a whole new team for his next film.
Recently Goran composed spicy music with a “kletzmer” aroma for the “Train de Vie” of Radu MIHAELANU acclaimed by the critics in Venice, Sao Paulo, Berlin and by the public everywhere it was shown.
He has since devoted himself to the interpretation of his own music and lent himself to a second stage-career. Without completely abandoning the movies, however: Nana Djordjaze «1001 Recipes of a Cook in Love» in 2000, «27 Missing Kisses» in 2001, Unni STRAUME « Music for Weddings & Funerals » (original music and the main male role) in 2002, Venice Film Festival official selection. In 2004 Bregovic repeats the same adventure: he composes music and plays the main role in an Italian film entitled “Giorni dell’Abandono” (“The days of Abandon”) premiered in Autumn 2005, Venice Film Festival official selection.
MUSIC FOR THEATRE
“Silence of the Balkans” was a very ambitious multimedia project performed in 1997 in Thessaloniki, under the direction of Slovenian Tomaz PANDUR with video images by Boris MILJKOVIC. Then a collaboration with Teatro Stabile from Trieste for whom he wrote the stage music for a very unusual “Hamlet”, and Goran Bregovic starts enjoying writing for the theatre. Follows a collaboration with one of the most “fashionnable” Italian directors, Marco BAILANI for whom, commissioned by the Festival NOVECENTO in Palermo, he writes the music for “The Children’s Crusade” (created November 1999). Recently Bregovic wrote music for a stage setting of Dante's "Divine Comedy" (conceived as a triptych, of which the first part Inferno was premiered at the THALIA THEATRE in Hamburg in January 2001, followed in February 2002 by Purgatory and Paradise). The director is Goran’s long time work complice, Tomaz PANDUR from Slovenia.
In 2007 the Serbian National Theatre commissioned music and staged a ballet based on Duma’s novel “Queen Margot”.
MUSIC FOR CONCERTS:
For over ten years, since he abandoned pure rock in 1985, the music of BREGOVIC had never been performed live. This all changes in 1995 when, with a band of ten traditional musicians, a choir of fifty singers and a symphony orchestra, he undertakes a series of mega-concerts in Greece and Sweden followed by the concert given October 26th at the Forest National of Brussels for an audience of 7500. Very few concert performances in 1996 as the idea of a hundred and twenty performers on stage scared even the most enthusiastic promoters.
In June 1997, the group is reduced to fifty musicians for a two hour concert with the music he composed for films. And it’s one success after another. Bregovic undertakes a triumphal tour throughout Europe with his Wedding and Funeral Band presenting live his most beautiful pieces from the famous “ Ederlezi” (Time of the Gypsies) to the “ In the Death Car” (Arizona Dream) and the energetic “Kalasnikov” (Underground) taking off as delirious audience echoes the with the powerful “Juris” (Charge ! !). The number of entries – between 3,500 and 10,000 per concert - and the concert given May 1st at the Piazza St. Giovanni in Rome in front of 500.000 people confirm beyond any doubt that his music now has a real impact on an international level.
Goran BREGOVIC continues his career, and the young local rock mega-star of the 70s and the 80s asserts his authority as a mature, successful, international composer.
Like a happy grown up child, Goran is honoured by collaborations with talented performers from diverse cultures – people he would have asked for an autograph not so long ago : Iggy Pop, whom he totally reinvents (Arizona Dream 1993), Ofra Haza (La Reine Margot,1994), Cesaria Evora (Underground 1995), Scot WALKER in UK, Setzen Aksu in Turkey, George Dalaras in Greece, Kayah in Poland. More to come with the new album!
SELECTED RECORDINGS :
« Time of the Gypsies » Polygram/Universal
« Arizona Dream » Polygram/Universal
« Toxic Affair » Polygram/Universal
« La Reine Margot » Polygram/Universal
« Underground » Polygram/Universal
« Ederlezi » compilation Polygram/Universal
« Bregovic & Kayah» BMG Poland
« Songbook » Polygram/Universal
« Music for Films » Polygram/Universal
« Tales from Weddings and Funerals» Polygram/Universal
« Goran Bregovic’s Karmen…» Mercury/Universal
« Alkohol - Sljivovica» Mercury/Decca
« Alkohol – Champagne for Gypsies» Mercury/Decca
(released September 24 2012)
Goran’s new album “Champagne for Gypsies”, is a reaction to the extreme pressure that Gypsies (Roma) have been experiencing lately across Europe (expelled from France, Italy, houses burned in Hungary...). It seems unfair to cover real problems with invented problems – gypsies are not a problem of this world, they are talent of this world. Everyone is impressed by gypsies – be they unknown gypsy on your street corner, or be they called Charlie Chaplin, Mother Teresa, Elvis Presley or Django Reinhardt. This album is meant to remind us of our favourite musicians who left a trace in popular culture around the world – Gypsy Kings, Gogol Bordello, Florin Salam, Stéphane Eicher...
Giovanni FERETTI of the legendary Italian group CSI, art director of « Bologna 2000 », asked Goran BREGOVIC to be the ambassador of music from the orthodox countries for a night-long fiesta on June 27. Goran called it "Hot Balkan Roots" and invited three brass bands (one from Bulgaria, one from Rumania and another one from Serbia) and a group of Russian female voices. A joint concert of BREGOVIC and CSI topped it all and the party was repeated on June 29 at the prestigious NUOVO AUDITORIUM DI ROMA.
To start off his Italian tour in Summer 2000, Goran concocted a "Big Wedding in Palermo" for the Santa Rosalia Celebration on July 14, for which he shared artistic direction with the famous musicologist and composer from Naples, Roberto de SIMONE. For just one very special night, Goran assembled artists from countries that he calls his « musical feeding-ground » - between Budapest and Istanbul. To Goran’s music and to images of video director from Belgrade, Boris MILJKOVIC, Slovenian and Greek dancers danced under direction of a gifted Rumanian choreographer , Edward CLUG. And once again he called on the brass bands (a wedding with no brass band is no wedding) to lead 80 brides and bridegrooms each from opposite parts of the beautiful town of Palermo to the central square where, around three in the morning, they met with Clug’s professional dancers and Goran’s Weddings and Funerals Band for a long final wedding dance.
In June 2002, Goran BREGOVIC united in the St. Denis Basilica (near Paris) three star singers from three religions with the Moscow orthodox choir, a string section from Tetouan in Morocco, and his Weddings and Funerals Orchestra, for a special project called “My Heart has become Tolerant” on the theme of reconciliation, commissioned by Festival of Sacred Music of St. Denis (that year entitled “From Bach to Bregovic”). Luciano Berio invited the same project to his Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome in July, another concert on the Esplanade of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Festival of Sacred Arts in Fez… and it can be said that another side of “contemporary music” composer has been added to Goran’s career.
In 2004 Goran BREGOVIC composed his first opera entitled “Bregovic’s Karmen with a Happy End”, the first Carmen with a K and a Balkan accent. A combination of naïve theatre and opera, “Karmen” was premiered in Italy on April 17 2004 and has since been performed over one hundred times. Written, composed and directed by Goran Bregovic (only a few quotes from Bizet’s “Carmen”), this gypsy opera is interpreted by the musicians of his Wedding and Funeral Band. Since recent publication of the album, a web-site has been created with music, scores for free use and information: http://karmen.artistes.universalmusic.fr/index_valid.php
2006 was marked by a project entitled “Forgive me, is this the way to the Future?” - Three letters - concerto for violin and two orchestras, commissioned by ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) for a tour of ten concerts in major European concert halls* in April 2007, interpreted by Goran’s Wedding & Funeral Band plus Kristjan JÄRVI’s ABSOLUTE ENSEMBLE from New York – all under the direction of Kristjan JÄRVI.
*Megaron - Athens, Accademia di Santa Cecilia - Rome, Konserthuset - Stockholm, Salle Grande Duchesse Joséphine-Charlotte - Luxembourg, Theatre Des Champs Elysées - Paris, Philharmonie – Cologne, Concertgebouw - Amsterdam, Bozar - Brussels, Symphony Hall - Birmingham, Konzerthaus – Vienna.
After tours across Europe and South America during the whole of 2002 and four triumphant concerts in Paris in November (two in the underground “Bataclan” and two in the temple of classical music “Théâtre des Champs Elysées”), in 2003 Bregovic toured Scandinavia, France, Rumania, Spain. In June 2003 a rendering of “Tolerant Heart” at the Festival of Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco and at the Guggenheim Foundation in Bilbao, and then two incredible sold out concerts in the legendary LUNA PARK Stadium in Buenos Aires. Then Summer Festivals across Europe.
Very little touring in Autumn/Winter 2003-2004 (only a short series of concerts in Switzerland in March 2004), as time was dedicated to “Goran Bregovic’s Karmen with a Happy End”. Since then, over a hundred and fifty performances: a “Karmen” from St. Petersburg to Jerusalem, from Buenos Aires to Seoul. A tour in Italy in April, concerts in France, Germany, Bergen Festival in Norway in May 2004… then yet more concerts in Italy, Germany & France in the Summer season… In the Fall three concerts in Belgium, then the Baltic countries, Vienna and the Chech Republic (plus one concert in Bratislava in Slovakia). In November Argentina again with three concerts in Buenos Aires and one in Cordoba, and then in December 2004 five concerts of “Karmen” at the Piccolo Teatro Festival Season in Milan, some more in Cagliari (Sardegna) and (yet another) short tour of Italy…
2005 brought more tours in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Israel. Also an opening of the Asian continent - a tour including Taipei, Singapore and Seoul in June 2005, then Summer Festivals in Italy, Spain, France. After Bremen in Germany, St. Petersburg & Moscow and a French tour in November, “Goran Bregovic’s Karmen with a Happy End” played all December in Paris in “Le Cabaret Sauvage”.
In June 2005, Bregovic’s old legendary group “White Button” (Bjelo Dugme) came back together for a sold-out reunion tour of the capitals of three former Yugoslav republics. An audience of 70.000 in Sarajevo and Zagreb, and 200.000 in Belgrade proved him right in the hope that people separated by wars could at least share and enjoy a common musical heritage.
2006 After a tour of France, some concerts in Spain and Italy, July 2006 offered a first opening of North American territories for Bregovic’s music: an extraordinary concert in a square in Montreal, closing the Montreal Jazz Festival for an audience of 150-200.000, one concert in Chicago’s magnificent Millennium Park (4.000 seated and 7.000 standing) and one concert in the Avery Fisher Hall within the Lincoln Center Festival in New York. Montreal and Chicago were free concerts offered respectively by the Festival and the City of Chicago, and the 2.800 seats of the Avery Fisher Hall were entirely sold out two weeks before the concert.
After a summer tour of festivals in France, Hungary, Italy and Greece, a return to Korea: Seong Nam – a concert of “Tales and Songs for Weddings and Funerals” with local musicians and Bregovic’s Wedding and Funeral Band on August 31st, and “Goran Bregovic’s Karmen with a Happy End” in Seoul on September 2. Little touring in Europe then work on the new projects and the CD of “Karmen…”
2007 More tours in Italy, France and Spain in January-February. A first visit to Australia and more sun on Canary Islands and Ile de la Réunion in March. Then colder places – Oslo, Island in May and the usual Summer tours with a come-back to Poland after a long absence. Mexico and Russia in the Autumn. Gypsy life full to the brim continues for this eclectic composer figure.
2008 A first visit to Chile (in January), a second visit to Mexico (in April), two sold out concerts in the New York Avery Fisher Hall (Lincoln Center Festival in July) and Australia (October). A concert in the Kremlin in Moscow and a tour in Siberia (November) plus Scandinavia and the Baltic countries and the habitual visits to France and Italy marked by two concerts of “Three Letters” with Kristjan JÄRVI’s ABSOLUTE ENSEMBLE within MI-TO Festival in Milano and Torino.
2009 Guca is a small town in Serbia of maybe 20.000 inhabitants that holds an annual contest of brass bands in August and swells to 150.000 people who, shaded by tents in scorching heat, drink, eat grilled meat and sour-kraut the Serbian way and drink and listen to the music and drink again for three days.... which explains the title of the new CD “Alkohol” recorded live there in the Summer of 2007. An American tour in June, a new piece for “Bang on a Can” Marching Band with a première in the Lincoln Center in August, more tours across Europe.
2010 Many tours world wide of which two in South America, and a new project “Margot, Diary of an unhappy Queen”, premièred at the Festival de Saint Denis, France June 7 and 8 2010. The format ‘recitando accompagnato’, involving the Goran Bregovic Weddings and Funerals Orchestra (brass, Bulgarian voices, voice/percussion, a male vocal sextet and a string quartet) plus an actress specifically chosen to say the text in the language of each country where “Margot...” is presented has conquered Concertgebouw Brugge, Salle Pleyel Paris, New Opera Festival in Caserta....
2011 began with a tour in Chile and continued with concerts across Europe and Russia. More concerts of “Margot, Diary of an unhappy Queen” in Rome, Bologna, Budapest, Brussels. A busy summer with festivals across Europe and ten concerts in the US (Carnegie Hall on October 19).
2012 was dedicated to finishing the second part of “Alkohol” album entitled ‘Champagne for Gypsies’ – complicated but wonderful because of the collaborations with different gypsy legends. End of August a special project in Italy, for “Notte della Taranta” in Melpignano – Puglie, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRhSTajPYWI) where Goran Bregovic arranged and conducted some 20 pieces of his music and traditional local music for a local orchestra, his musicians, a vocal octet from Croatia and gypsy band from Serbia. In February and then July, three young actresses (Swintha GERSTHOFER in Theater an der Wien in Austria, Ana MOREIRA at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and Lisa DWAN at the Barbican Center in London) portrayed in German, Portuguese and English a young woman who hates the war in Bregovic’s special project “Margot, diary of an unhappy queen” for which he wrote both text and music. And more touring – some hundred concerts between Yerevan and Cannes, Berlin and St. Petersburg...
2012 started with an incredible concert in the 5.000-seater hall Le Zénith in Paris to present his most recent album “Champagne for Gypsies” with his 19-piece orchestra joined by all gypsy musicians who sing on the album: Selina O’Leary form Ireland, Stephen Eicher from Switzerland, Eugene Hütz of Gogol Bordello from Ukraine/Rio/planet Earth and the Gypsy Kings. A feast! Coming up in March a 9-concert tour in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong and then more concerts in Europe like the Parisian Zénith fiesta. In parallel Goran is working hard on his next opera “ORFEO DI BREGOVIC” scheduled for August 2013 at Festival de la Taranta in Melpignano - Southern Italy. Again with local musicians and source traditional taranta rhythms...
More touring – Brasil beginning of September, the US in October, Europe in between....
See next page for GORAN BREGOVIC: PRESS
On Goran Bregovic:
"It was party time…a Balkan free-for-all and the jam-packed auditorium went wild…The audience lapped it all up eagerly and the applause was so enthusiastic at the end of the show that Bregovic played no fewer than an extra five numbers..."
-The Jerusalem Post
"a populist world-classical music hybrid that went down a storm before a packed crowd."
"For the past four years [Goran Bregovic] has attracted the sensibility of the most varied audiences in Europe letting them taste something that stared out as original film music, and that ends up… the most beautiful, captivating, cross-breed visual symphony that has been woven over this last decade of the Twentieth Century. It is a mind-blowing return trip with no destination or port of arrival….A magnificent concert, one of the greatest marvels to be heard on stage today."
"Goran Bregovic….always surprises us with his compositions- they're crammed to the brim with catharsis and joy…the group channels both unbridled optimism and utter despair into succinct, sweeping vignettes."
-Time Out Chicago
"Goran Bregovic and his Weddings and Funerals Band…had the audience eating out of their hands…Bregovic makes a music that runs the spectrum from ecstatic, robustly earthy dance music, to naughty pop tunes, to vocal and string arrangements ripe with sentimentality, to quiet, contemplative pieces that can approach a spiritual intensity…a lyrical, beautifully paced evening"
"[Goran Bregovic's] concert is one of the most risky, devastating and attractive events going….within the shy soul of Goran Bregovic hides a rocker spirit, inspired by old quintessence of the 'genre', refurbished by post-punk rebellion….Goran has construed a unique and inimitable musical structure endowed with virtues and excesses inherent to that existential conglomerate. Goran Bregovic, the feverish imagination that has conceived this futuristic universe, sits attentive, innocent-looking, as if he never broke a plate in his life. Geniuses are like that. "
"The fashion of reviving all sorts of popular music in the most spectacular manners has recently set its heart on the musical world of the Gypsies…no one does it with the intelligence of...Goran Bregovic. The result of his inventions resemble no other. He is light years from them, both my means but even more by his ingenuity."
"One of the most beautiful symphonies of the Old Europe…[Bregovic] creates the most breath-taking music on this continent….His art is exciting tight-rope walking….intense, vigorous, colorful, passionate, exotic, fascinating."