The first concert I went to in Bosnia-Herzegovian was a performance in Mostar by Damir Imamovic. He is one of the most prominent modern sevdahlija, young people who are remaking the tradition of sevdah, traditional Bosnian music. His grandfather was one of the most famous singers of sevdah; Damir plays guitar instead of the traditional saz and includes elements of jazz, but he is also devoted to researching and preserving old texts and melodies.
Sevdah is fairy tale music, with archaic words and diction that take you back to medieval courtyards and love stories. time machine music. It lends itself to both philophising (“what does sevdah really mean? Let me tell you…” + 5 hours discussion) and fusion– jazz sevdah, rock sevdah, heavy metal sevdah… It is characterized by its melancholic, yearning tone and delicate vocal embellishment.
The second half of this music video by Damir was filmed in Abrasevic, the youth centre where I worked, where the concert was held. I feel so nostalgic when I watch the video; it really captures the spirit of the place.
Damir’s way of playing traditional music reminds of of Abrasevic’s approach to culture in general; Abrasevic takes on a pre-pre-war cultural tradition, having been founded before WWII, surviving two wars and now still hosting a regular cultural program, reimaging culture for the next generation of Mostarians.
Through my radio show “Fildzan sevdaha” (A cup of sevdah) on AbrasRadio, I researched what sevdah means to Bosnian people today.
My friend Dolores started singing sevdah at home as a little girl. She sees sevdah as a unique way of experiencing emotion, connected to words and melodies that her ancestors have been singing for thousands of years.
8 year old Adna told me how her grandpa closes his eyes when he listens to sevdah, and her dad listens to sevdah on the car radio. She also sang a song for me.