August 16, 2020 – The world’s most-famous contemporary Sevdalinka outfit, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, hold their first concert of the year in Croatia, as part of the 66th Split Summer Festival
The emotion-wracked melodies of the traditional Sevdalinka (or Sevdah) folk music have rung out across Bosnia for over 500 years. But, for the most famous contemporary band playing this style, the music fell silent on New Year’s Eve.
That was the final performance by Mostar Sevdah Reunion, whose return to the live circuit has been halted by COVID-19. But, tonight (Sunday 16 August), at 9pm, they return to the stage.
The band will play a concert at 9pm in Sustipan in Split, the peninsula which lies south-west of the harbour, as part of the 66th Split Summer Festival. There, the emotionally-charged sounds of sevdah, sometimes described as the blues or soul music of the Balkans, will once again be set free.
The Balkan region has the richest and most unique range of folk musics in the whole of Europe; nowhere other than here can you hear styles, scales and rhythms from the near and far east infiltrate into European folk music styles. This melting pot of styles grants the region an exciting and diverse range of authentic folk musics, years ahead, in terms of progression and ambition, to other European styles (indeed, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that jazz music emanates from Bulgaria and not America). Sevdah is arguably the most emotive of all the traditional folk musics from the area which encompasses the former Yugoslavia. It has fans across the whole region.
Mostar Sevdah Reunion
Emerging with their debut album in 1999, Mostar Sevdah Reunion have done more than any other contemporary band to place sevdah music on the world stage. They have recorded with true giants of sevdah and Roma music, such as Esma Redzepova, Šaban Bajramović and Ljiljana Buttler. In concert, they have appeared at Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Barbican Center in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Kremlin State Theater in Moscow, the Art Palace in Budapest, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Nice Jazz Festival and WOMAD Festival. Mostar Sevdah Reunion have had several documentaries made about them.
The word sevdah comes from the Turkish word sevda which, in turn, derives from the Arabic sawda, a word often associated with a pining heart or unrequited love. Alongside the sevdah music they take their name and inspiration from, over the band’s 25+ year career Mostar Sevdah Reunion have become famous for mixing jazz and even Latin styles into their music. In recent years have opened their repertoire to include a classic catalogue of Romani songs.