Ten years into a uniquely fascinating career, Bosnian musician Damir Imamović continues to forge innovative approaches to the venerable tradition of sevdah. We are delighted to announce that he will be
embarking on a tour in 2020, with a new quartet comprising legendary avant-garde acoustic bassist Greg Cohen (Masada, Tom Waits, Ornette Coleman), one of Turkey’s premium classical soloists, Derya Türkan
(Kudsi Ergüner, Erkan Oğur).
The trio’s repertoire will be based on Damir’s decade-long musical journey. It will include a wealth of original material culled from his acclaimed back catalogue, but will also revisit the sevdah classics. Greg Cohen’s long involvement with Eastern European music, and Derya Türkan’s Turkish musical heritage, which has had a profound influence on the music of the Balkans, should push the boundaries of Damir’s work still further.
Taking its name from sevda, the Turkish word for love, derived in turn from the Arabic sawda meaning ‘black bile’ (and hence melancholy), sevdah has been played in the Balkans in one form or another since at least the 15th century. Although the temptation to refer to it as ‘Bosnian blues’ is perhaps too infrequently resisted, its lyrical and musical preoccupations with love, longing and loss do provide us with a bridge to other European roots traditions, such as fado, whose central concept of saudade is itself related to sawda.
Sarajevo born and raised, Imamović has been steeped in the sounds of sevdah since childhood. Much has been said of his stellar family tradition – both his father and grandfather remain legends of the form. Since those early days, however, when he would ward off boredom during the siege of the city in the early 1990s by learning guitar chords in his basement shelter, Imamović has completely changed the rules of the game. For this is not a man content to insert himself seamlessly into any line of succession – that would be too easy. He comes with questions and challenges above all: questions for those gatekeepers of the genre bent on reducing style, rhythm and repertoire to a narrow set of conventions; and challenges to the more recent 20th century orthodoxies that would make of sevdah a straightforward reflection of national character. Imamović’s art is nothing less than a quiet, steady insurgency within sevdah – deeply considered work that refuses the seductions of nationalism. It takes the music beyond its birthplace and shows it the world.