Damir Imamović: “There is a whole conservative scene of Sevdah developing”
The Camarón of Sevdah goes up on stage of the Stolarija Narodnog Pozorišta in Sarajevo accompanied by three top-level musicians: his traveling companion and renowned bosnian violinist Ivana Đurić, the northamerican Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, David Byrne, Elvis Costello) and the virtuoso turkish Derya Türkan. Damir will be celebrating there his 40th birthday, on September 6th, as he continues his path of investigation and risky homage to the genre, and continues to dive in the seas of fusion and constant revolution. Restless spirit, tireless mind.
“I love Sevdah Takht. It is my longest lasting cooperation and I hope to continue with them as long as we have something to say together”
“The sevdalinka lives its best moment. We have never known more about it. Some very interesting musical projects are performing it throughout the world”
“I see many talents of Sevdah being discouraged of further development by elites. It is deeply saddening, but this music survived even worse times”
By César Campoy.
-What can you advance from that special concert of 6th September?
-“Stolarija” (“workshop”) of the National Theatre in Sarajevo is such a special place. I wanted to play there for a long time now. Acoustics is perfect and we’re going to try and do something really special there. I will invite many friends to join me. But also we will have some tickets in circulation so the fans can also join us. Those days I’m celebrating my 40th birthday. It is a very important moment in our existence as individuals: you have to meditate on it, to think and rethink. But also, enjoy as much as you could.
-Why have you decided that Greg Cohen, Derya Türkan and Ivana Đurić are your main guests for this important event?
-I always wanted to play with Greg and Derya. Last year we’ve met and decided to make a trio. I wanted to use my birthday as an opportunity to start us off. Birthday is a great time to start something completely new. Of course, I love Ivana’s playing so much and I asked her to join us for this occasion. We’re going to revisit some old stuff that I did more than ten years ago, but also do some new songs.
-It’s not the first time that Derya has played with you. You already did it on Bosnian television, right?
-Yes, he was a guest in a concert I played with my band [Sevdah Takht] in Sarajevo in the studio of Bosnian TV. Much of the Sevdah history was made in that studio. I thought inviting such a renowned soloist of Turkish classical music into the genre of Sevdah in such an important institution was an important thing to do.
-Are they the only guests at that concert?
-Yes. I didn’t want to make a “memorial” concert with all the friends I’ve ever worked with. I will leave that for my 80th birthday [laugh].
-In these 40 years of life and sevdalinkas, I would like you to remember how the Sevdah was inside you when you were 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old. How do you remember that you lived the Sevdah in each of those decades?
-It is a good question. When I was a kid, it was a music from the radio. Later on, a music from the “dernek” (a get-together where somebody would play and everybody would sing), and only later a matter of learning and performance.
-Does the Sevdah Takht project continue? Do you have prepared songs to record in the future?
-Of course. I love that band. It is my longest lasting cooperation and I hope to continue with them as long as we have something to say together. We’re already working on a new album.
-In your next albums, what will have more weight: the songs composed by you or the homages to Sevdah classics?
-I have to say that I’m leaning more to the original songs these days. These “homages” as you call it (and it is a damn good word for it) are a very important part of what I do. They keep me rooted and I feel I need them. But they are sometimes misunderstood because they usually presuppose that the listener is familiar with the classical versions I’m playing with. And it is not always the case, not even in Bosnia.
-As an important piece of the so-called New Sevdah, do you think there is already a new generation with a bright future ahead? I speak, for example, of younger people, such as Jusuf Brkić.
-In the last 20 years, new projects were coming up every couple of years. Some of them remained, some of them lost it (even though they were very popular at the time). There are now some interesting new performers (Jusuf being one of them, for sure). We will see will they be able to find their way through media, audiences, commercial music, and still remain artistically interesting.
-Does sevdalinka live its best moment for a long time?
-I’m sure it does. We have never known more about it. Some very interesting musical projects are performing it throughout the world. What can disappoint some people: sevdalinka of today doesn’t reach larger audiences as it once did. In 1950s and 1960s it was a popular music of the day and some of sevdalinka performers were the main pop stars in the country (Socialist Yugoslavia of those times). Today, we are a working on a fringe scene we have created for ourselves: on the crossroads between popular music, world music, jazz, etc. We are not in competition with folk performers and we made up completely new venues and modes of presentation for ourselves. I think it is all very positive.
-What are the most important problems that sevdalinka faces?
-I think it’s still conservatism. There is a whole conservative scene of Sevdah developing. Those are the people who think that music survives via closing itself from within, not trying anything new. They are not only incessantly repeating old arrangements but they are even accusing anybody who is bringing a new perspective into the genre of being “non-authentic” or simply “bad”. It is sad to watch all these kids that are being sucked into this boring, folksy world. I see many talents being discouraged of further development by conservative elites. It is deeply saddening. But, this music survived even worse times…
–Damir Imamović Trio: Svira Standarde/Plays standards (Buybook, 2006)
–Damir Imamović Trio: Abrašević live (Autoeditado, 2008)
–Solo: Damir Imamović (Gramofon, 2010)
–Solo: Svrzina Kuća (iTM, 2011)
–Damir Imamović Sevdah Takht: Sevdah Takht (iTM, 2012)
–Damir Imamović Sevdah Takht: Dvojka (Glitterbeat Records, 2016)