We are big fans of Amira Medunjanin, whom we have seen perform live in London a few years back now. We consider her to be a living legend due to her lovely voice and success in world music arena. Amira was kind enough to give us this exclusive interview in which she reveals her relationship with singing Sevdalinkas in amongst other songs from Serbia (Vranje) and Macedonia.
Your album ‘Rosa’ could arguably be called ‘the most significant world music recording in history’. What’s a typical day of the main artist from that album like?
I appreciate your opinion about ‘Rosa’ album.
I have to give my thanks and respect to all the artists on this album, since without them I would not have been able to bring out the emotion which makes the core of this musical creation.
It is hard to avoid technology in the everyday routine of life, but the best form of relaxing does not come while one is with a laptop or communicating over FaceBook.
Our lives need more substance than that.
I am afraid that the new technologies lead us towards isolation.
Many people in the Western world feel some sort of isolation and suffer from depression, even though (when one digs past the surface) things have not changed that much.
Everyone tries to be modern and in this new system of values it’s hard to be modern and I think that a regular person finds it hard to follow the advancements of the civilisation.
If we give the highest priority to the unstoppable process of innovation of society, I’m afraid very little is left for us to observe with our own eyes.
I said all of this in order to illustrate how family and friends ought to be the basis for life of every person wanting to function normally within a society, and towards creation of a richer society as a whole.
I see my close friends every day and with a sense of belonging I get certain freedom by doing that, which enriches me as a person through talking and general conversation.
I think that de-socialising is the worst tendency of a person in today’s world.
We don’t have much time in our lives to waste upon worthless and non-creative activities.
Can you describe the creation process of album ‘Rosa’?
Since we are talking about the album, I would like to mention Miss Kim Burton, who contributed enormously to the creation of the album.
A unique creative expression has enriched the musical picture of this album and gave it a special taste which has, lucky for us, been recorded onto it.
Considering we recorded the entire album within three days, all of that time was like a form of a day dreaming and I don’t really have a clear picture about everything that happened, it just looks to me like a beautiful dream.
Experience of all the artists ensured that everything went through without any complications, except that in beautiful, but cold Mostar, I managed to get a lung infection just before the recording process started, so the high temperature heated the atmosphere even more.
I also must add that for recording material like this Mostar has to be the best place on the planet, since it still contains it’s unique personality and the scent of old times.
What’s your most interesting anecdote while recording Sevdalinkas?
There are a number of them, but I can remember the last one.
I was asked to sing one more song at Bosnian Cultural Centre and tried, and I say tried, to sing the song ‘Bogata sam imam svega’, acapella, but I completely forgot the second verse.
I think the audience thought of it as cute, but I must admit I felt really embarrassed.
Your concert in London was unforgettable and entirely perfect. Is it possible for Sevdalinka to be regularly performed on the world’s stages in a similar way to how salsa is represented.
It’s a shame that artists from Bosnia don’t get much performance space within Western events.
I think that we are capable of bringing a lot of good and positive material to the stage for people to see.
All of us are aware how rich a country we are and what we are capable of demonstrating.
I think that Bosnia is still unknown amongst many Westerners and that the world has become so small that we can still somehow send a message and describe the philosophy of centuries long multicultural life within our country.
We have much to offer to the world and point to some values which are of core significance to the whole world.
We have survived very difficult times in our history and have still come out, after all that, as winners.
When I say ‘winners’ I firstly think about dedication towards preservation of life in our region, followed by rich heritage and tradition which has been feeding us with positive energy and given us additional strength to overcome all the difficulties which we faced.
The experience which we have and can offer is vast.
Do you consider yourself to be a traditional or modern Sevdalinka singer and why?
When we are talking about Sevdalinka artists, I think it is difficult to use that term today.
We must say that the time of the legends such as Jozo Penava, Safet Isovic and Nada Mamula has passed and what is left over are just the beautiful memories about those who have as a generation of people prevented these lovely songs from being forgotten.
I have learnt a lot from these people and not only have they given me the pleasure in listening to their Sevdalinka works, but they have also given me the inner peace which enables me to more easily weather the challenging times in my life.
It’s interesting to observe that we all used to be much closer and aware of each other back then, as though there existed some sort of a net which was connecting people and made the society unbreakable.
What would you like to achieve with your Sevdalinka performances in future?
Before all my only wish is to enjoy Sevdah, however selfish that might sound.
Nothing apart from that.
Everything else is secondary.
Every time I perform I want to ensure that people who came to listen to what I do feel at least a part of my love for Sevdalinka.
At least if they can see the universal message and strength of all those songs and how an advanced a society we (Bosnians) are, when we have been reaching those kinds of advanced values some 400 years ago.
Values which can be measured alongside utopia, keeping in mind that all these songs came from people themselves, from ordinary folk, whose only aim was to describe and transmit their emotions and their view of the world within a few verses.
Those songs make that world seem as though it’s just round the corner from here.
That sort of art and culture is present in all Bosnians and makes one of the core values of our society, while giving us the strength to aim for the better and more just world in the future.
Published on 8th March 2010