Singer Medunjanin’s dectet tours 10 Balkan countries
SARAJEVO - Anatolia News Agency
Medunjanin, popular among young audiences in Bosnia Herzegovina as well as internationally, has crafted a unique musical blend by performing traditional sevdalinka songs with a nod to jazz styles. AA photo
Amira Medunjanin, the famous performer of traditional Bosnian folk music – sevdalinka – and known as the “Bosnian Billie Holiday,” is heading a 10-person band on a musical tour of 10 Balkan countries. Representing Bosnia Herzegovina, she was asked to form the dectet by selecting Balkan musicians from different countries.
Medunjanin visited Turkey’s Cultural and Promotional Adviser in Sarajevo, Cengiz Aydın, to provide information about her project and bring a Turkish representative onboard. She met Turkish lute player
Osman Yurdal Tokcan, who agreed to join.
The group gave their first concert, which she described as “magnificent,” as a 10-person band in London’s Trafalgar Square during the city’s Jazz Festival just one week before the London Olympic Games. The same group will perform in Sarajevo this year before moving on to visit and play in nine countries, including Turkey.
Medunjanin, popular among young audiences in Bosnia Herzegovina as well as internationally, has crafted a unique musical blend by performing traditional sevdalinka folk songs with a nod to jazz styles. Born in Sarajevo, Medunjanin grew up listening to the sevdalinka that could be heard in every part of the country.
“Even if we deny it, one day your genes began working inside you and you cannot stay away from these songs. I have had a tie with this musical tradition since my childhood. I did not choose it but it chose me,” she said.
According to Medunjanin, a journalist from New Zealand, Garth Carthwright, first defined her as “the Bosnian Billie Holiday,” and that she has been compared to other world-famous jazz artists. “But I am not in favor of such comparisons. Billie Holiday is the one and only,” Medunjanin added. “This is a big compliment for me. Cartwright compares me with Holiday because both of us try to offer a unique thing. Holiday had a unique style by playing on jazz music. I am trying to interpret sevdalinka songs in my own style.”
Bosnia carries its culture to the world
Bosnian culture has recently been expanding around the world through various festivals from London to Amsterdam, thanks in no small part to Medunjanin. People who hear the music feel joy and happiness and become very satisfied with hearing something different and exotic, she said.
Despite the fact that most artists today focus on record sales, Medunjanin is appreciative of fans who still cherish the live concert experience. “There are many people who spend their time coming to the concerts to listen to artists, and those people say they hear nice music from us. This brings us happiness.”
“The music and our songs tell the story of a society to other cultures,” she said. “I am very happy to reach an audience outside of the Balkans. I have audiences around the world. Foreign people who come to listen to me are like Bosnians. The language difference between us is not a problem because we can communicate via music.”
Medunjanin has also said she would like to give a concert in Turkey. “I visited Istanbul in December 2011 and fell in love with the city. People were so hospitable and friendly,” she said. She had previously visited Istanbul to work with Turkish musicians on a project initiated by London’s Sirious House in cooperation with the London Olympic Committee combining modern and jazz music.
Support for the project
Aydın has said Turkey’s Cultural and Promotional Directorate in Sarajevo will support the project.
“Amira Medunjanin is planning to give concerts in 10 Balkan countries; this is a really nice project. Music is a global concept and the best peace messages can be issued through music,” Aydin said.
“It is really important to gather 10 people from 10 different countries.
This is a really touchy project, that’s why we chose to support it.” According to Aydın, these kinds of cultural exchange projects are very important to the spread and sustainment of peace across continents and around the world.