Damir Imamovic speaks about the Beauty of Sevdalinka traditional Songs

[wzslider autoplay=”true” info=”true]Sevdah is a musical form that is considered to be innate to the traditions and history of BiH, but it is still largely unknown outside the borders of the former Yugoslavia. Thus, in what ways would you describe Sevdah to someone who has never been exposed to it?

International audiences perceive Bosnia and Herzegovina and its traditional music in the context of the wider culture of the Balkans. Simply, most of the countries in the Balkans are too small to be perceived individually. That is a hard thing to understand for us locally because we are too much in love with our small differences. That is why I always have to talk about the Balkans when I talk about Bosnian music to those who have never been exposed to it. Sevdah is a sister genre to Rembetika, Fado, Tango, Blues or any other genre of music that came from the meetings of different worlds. It has traces of Bosnia’s Ottoman past, but also traces of Slavic ballads, Austrian fin-de-siecle culture, etc. It is melancholic to most Western ears.

You are widely known in this region for not only your solo performances, but for helping bring Sevdah music to the fore once again, and this time the sounds are very different than what we consider to be ‘traditional’ Sevdah sounds. How is your sound or interpretation of Sevdah different?

I try to open the traditional forms and learn from them. It is probably what any artist should do in their field: learn your history, learn your craft and then – do something new with it. I did infuse some new arrangements into traditional songs and people did recognize some influences of jazz, Turkish music, Indian music and many other things. But I strive to remain a sevdah performer and use bits and pieces of other genres in sevdah rather than borrow melodies from sevdah and play it in a context of some other musical genre. I think these two movements are essential in treatment of traditional music today.

What is the meaning of Sevdah Takht? How did the three of you meet?

There was an Ottoman representative who came to Bosnia sometime in the 19th century to reorganize the local administration. I think his name was Kamil-pasha or something like that. He tried to organize neighborhoods in streets with names that would be written on small planks. The word for a plank was “tahta” so he the folks named him “tahtar-pasha”. I think “takht” has a meaning of reorganization and tracing, among other things. In Sevdah Takht, we are reorganizing rhythms and melodies in the tunes we are re-arranging and I think that is the crucial meaning of the word. “Takht” was also an old name for small bands in the East.

By signing the agreement with Glitterbeat, the best World Music Label, Sevdah Takht will join the group of the best artists in the world. Can you tell Sarajevo Times more about this cooperation?

I met Chris Eckman (ex-The Walkabouts), the co-owner and producer of Glitterbeat a couple of years ago. We liked each other’s work and decided to work together. Everything started from that and we finally signed this year. This is my first international release and I’m really looking forward to exposing my music to new audiences. I think it is essential for any artist to seek new communication, new opportunities and not to remain locked in what he or she has achieved.

Do you think Sevdah, if promoted in this way, can help brand the music to the outside world as a way to foster a broad sense of community?

Sevdah is already a community. Look at the reactions to the new developments in sevdah. Everyone is quite vocal about every single artist (positive or negative: as if one performer can save or destroy the music). This music touches people in terms of emotions but also in terms of identity, politics and/or sexuality. It is a very important thing for any genre of art: to mean something to the people.


Interview by Zejna SY

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