Tag Archives: Serbian music

Interview with Faith i Branko

Faith i Branko

She’s an English rose, an accordionist and circus performer from a Cotswolds hamlet. He’s a virtuoso Roma violinist from a village in West Serbia.

How Faith and Branko came to form a successful band, and the trials and tribulations they had to overcome en-route, provides a compelling backstory.

It began a decade ago when Faith felt impelled to drive to Serbia to learn local styles of accordion playing. While there, she met Branko, a fiddle player who the BBC would later mention in the same breath as Paganini. Despite a language barrier, they began creating music together. They fell in love and two years later, when Faith returned to Serbia, they married.

The couple spent the next five years attempting to gain entry to live in the UK. “During this time, I was immersed in the music and language of the Roma village in which we built a house near his family,” Faith relates. They eventually made it to England two years ago, via Vienna and work in the Austrian Roma music scene.

The stresses of the past half-dozen years or so have been immense,” Faith reveals. “Branko’s health has been difficult — his life before was traumatic — and trying to understand a way to be together in the fast modern world that we have now moved to, has been a huge challenge. But whether our joint lives are joyful or problematic, all of this — happiness and pain — is poured into our music and creates the energy between us that you can see on stage.”

Faith i Branko

Until he met Faith, Branko had never travelled internationally, been on an airplane or used a bank or computer. “Life in my village was natural, communal and simple,” he says. “Before Faith arrived in my life, I had had one of my visions — that a girl would come who I would travel the world with and play music with.”

In 2015, his dream was realized when they jetted to Australia for a handful of gigs with Sydney band Lolo Lovina. For Branko, simply arriving in the world-renowned harbour city with Faith was mindboggling: “It was one of the most spectacular moments of my life.

Faith i Branko currently perform with Serbian-born guitarist Stefan Melovski and Yugoslavian-born double bass player Viktor Obsust. “The quartet is the sound we currently prefer,” says Faith. “After working with drummers and additional instruments, it provides the fullest and most delicate sound for our requirements.”

The band’s music has been described as wild and energetic. “It doesn’t have much middle ground,” Faith agrees. “The emotions expressed within it are very intense, whether in slow painful passages or super-speed joyful bursts … it’s music that expresses the extremes of being alive.”

She continues: “The music works from a musical foundation of Serbia Roma music — the traditional music of Branko’s village of Gornja Grabovica. While we make journeys into other flavours, this is the style that predominates.”

Although Faith utilises a traditional English tabor pipe within their music — playing the accordion with one hand and the pipe with the other — she says there’s very little deliberate melding of their heritages. “It is more in the combining of two very different cultural personalities that this heritage can be felt.

By all accounts, Faith i Branko’s music has matured considerably in recent years. “It has progressed from a much more simplistic way of playing to something more detailed, complex and full as we have travelled and matured as people and players.”

One of the things they have done is to stretch the capacity of the violin. “Branko has changed greatly as a player due to being exposed to an international music scene, and the music reflects the change in our current personal relationship from the relationship between us four years ago.”

• The above interview first appeared in Rhythms, Australia’s only dedicated roots music magazine.

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Heartbreaking Roma Songs

Eva Salina & Peter Stan – Sudbina (Vogiton Records, 2018)

Sudbina recreates the songs of Vida Pavlovic, a Serbian Roma (Gypsy) singer who was very popular in the former Yugoslavia and came to be known as the “Queen of Roma Music.”

The two artists involved in this recording are American vocalist Eva Salina, who specializes in Eastern European music, and Serbian Roma accordionist Peter Stan (Slavic Soul Party).

Sudbina is a set of deeply-moving love songs showcasing the talent of Eva Salina as passionate performer of Roma music and Peter Stan’s masterful accordion work profoundly rooted in Balkan Gypsy music.

Buy Sudbina

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Artist Profiles: Branco Stoysin

Branco Stoysin

Born in a university town, Novi Sad, in the former Yugoslavia (and now part of Serbia), and entirely self-taught, Branco began playing guitar at the age of 15 and very soon found a love of jazz and Brazilian music, influenced by Joe Pass, Charlie Parker and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Soon, Branco was being featured at a number of jazz venues and festivals in his home country and appeared at the largest festival “The Days of Jazz in Novi Sad”.

At 18 he prolifically started composing sensual music of great beauty with Sunny dispositions and gathered 1s of tunes till present. He is largely inspired by the Sun, and influenced by Jazz, Traditional Folk music of Yugoslavia, Brazilian, World and classical music. The interest in these compositions led to recordings for radio and TV Novi Sad. Following this Branco formed his “Sad Nova Trio” whose success led to numerous concerts and broadcasts on TV.

As an avid reader of the Sherlock Holmes series, he began to hanker after a different life and wider musical opportunities. In the early nineties he set off to England with little more than his guitar and has since become a fixture on the London and UK music scene, actively composing and performing solo, in various duos and with his NEW trio featuring the elegant Leslee Booth on 6 string contra bass and imaginative Buster Birch on percussion.

The trio has performed at many top venues such as Arts Centres – the National Theatre foyer, the Royal Festival Hall foyer, the Barbican Arts Centre foyer, the Royal Albert Hall-Ignite, Norwich, Colchester, Cardiff, Windsor; Festivals – London Jazz and Jazz on the Streets, City Of London Festival, International Guitar Festival of GB Wirral, Bath International Guitar Festival, Ards International Guitar Festival of Co Down N. Ireland, and an endless list of clubs such as: Pizza Express Jazz Club in London, The Stables Theatre Milton Keynes, Cambridge Modern Jazz Club, The Landmark Hotel London.

Branco has also appeared with his trio on Sky TV “Arts World”, BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” program and is regularly featured and a favorite on Sarah Ward’s show on Jazz FM and new station The Jazz.

Branco is a qualified teacher at Goldsmiths College, London, where he teaches guitar in his unique, passionate and enthusiastic way, passing that enthusiasm and love for the instrument onto his students from the very start enabling them to relay play the guitar. During seven years of teaching at the college, in course questionnaires he was always rated 5 out of 5, as a mark of excellence and the students satisfaction.

Discography:

Something between the Sea and the Sky (Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597, 1998)

Amber (Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597-2, 2000)

Heart Is the Bridge (Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597-3, 2003)

Lily Of The Valley (Sun Recordings BSY-SR 24597-4, 2006)

Quiet Stream Breaks The Rocks (Sun Recordings BST-SR 24597-5,  2007)

Inexhaustible (Sun Recordings BST-SR 24597-6,  2009.)

Alone (Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597-7, 2013)

Videos

Branco Stoysin Trio Live At Pizza Express Jazz Club, London. DVD (Sun Recordings BST-SR 24597-D1,  2011)

www.brancostoysin.co.uk

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Eastern European Ecstasies

A term like “Eastern European music” gets bandied about by many, including me. It’s one of those convenient generalizations used to cover a category that’s more than a category. From folkloric traditions and age-old ballads to mighty brass bands and fusions that were free to happen in post-communist societies, there’s a lot to take in.

 

Bilja Krstic and the Bistrik Orchestra – Svod: Traditional Songs from Serbia and The Balkans

 

Bilja Krstic and the Bistrik Orchestra offer up Svod: Traditional Songs from Serbia and The Balkans (ARC Music, 2016). I remain unclear as to how many pieces constitutes an orchestra, but this outfit’s 9-strong lineup (plus guest players) proceeds with delightful zest through a set of mainly traditional tunes that retain the heartfelt sevdah (Balkan blues) intent and add enough rhythmic swing to lift the spirits and stir the hips.

Krstic’s soaring (but never overbearing) vocals are a marvel in settings of both sparse accompaniment that lets the emotional content sink in and full band buildups often jazz-like in the way they flow. At times sporting a serenity that seems to stop all else before breaking into a dance-inducing left turn, this highly satisfying collection succeeds on those levels and more, including one spine-tingling a capella track.

 

Franolic, Jovanovic and Culap – Put

 

In rather stark contrast stands Put (Geenger Records, 2016) by the Zagreb-based trio of Franolic, Jovanovic and Culap. The three play oud (Arabic lute), harmonica and percussion respectively, and while there’s a Balkan sensibility running through their rhythms and melodies, influences from Turkey, India and anywhere blues and jazz have permeated are evident as well.

The oud and harmonica shadow each other with a symbiosis that lets them both take turns slinking or springing forward to take the lead as the percussion (primarily frame drum and ceramic udu) marks changes in time and mood and does some leading of its own. Put has got atmosphere to spare, but there’s a core to this music that’s covertly fierce and passionate. Consider it essential listening.

 

The Klezmatics – Apikorsim/Heretics

 

Of course, klezmer -that celebratory brand of Jewish music rooted in the 19th century and well able to get the heart pounding here in the 21st- is one sort of Eastern European music that’s immediately identified with the region and the people who created it. The Klezmatics have been foremost in keeping the sound alive for 30 years and they’re unlikely to stop anytime soon, which is good news for all of us. On Apikorsim/Heretics (World Village, 2016) the band is as crazy cool and ingeniously mad as ever, harnessing their arsenal of brass, reeds, violin, viola, accordion, guitar, bass, piano, organ, harmonium, kaval, tsimbl, drums, percussion and vocals (dang, that’s a lot of instruments when you consider there’s only 6 people in the band) to create Yiddish songs that are lively and infectious almost beyond belief.

Just as important, they see to it that klezmer’s roots as music of an enduring, vibrant culture are not overlooked in serious or humorous terms. So while songs like “May Redemption Come” and “Who Guides the Ships?” are sincere in their spiritual perspective and “My Mother’s Mirror” pulls no punches on the reality of aging, there’s room for a gastronomically indulgent “Party in Odessa” and a close examination on the title track of exactly what makes happy heretics happy. The Klezmatics are in prime form, playing music they’ve not only mastered but obviously continue to love very deeply.

headline photo: Bilja Krstic and the Bistrik Orchestra

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