Serbia’s Goran Bregović returns with his influential Yugoslavian rock band, Bijelo Dugme | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Serbia’s Goran Bregović returns with his influential Yugoslavian rock band, Bijelo Dugme

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On his energetic new album Three Letters From Sarajevo (Wrasse), Bosnian composer and guitarist Goran Bregović displays his broad-minded ability to express the full splendor of vintage eastern European traditional and folk music. He’s been charged with brazen acts of cultural theft in the past, such as translating the gritty sounds of a singer like Šaban Bajramović, known as the King of the Romany, for a mainstream listenership. While that remains debatable, there’s no doubt that he’s popularized music from the region, notably scoring films by Serbian director Emir Kusturica and touring the world with his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. On the new record he engages in a different kind of outreach, expressing Sarajevo’s cosmopolitan side with a global assortment of guest singers (including the gruff Algerian rai star Rachid Taha, Spanish art-pop chanteuse Bebe, and Israeli folk-pop vocalist Asaf Avidan) and instrumentals that feature violinists of three different traditions; Western classical, Arabic, and klezmer. Bregović doesn’t often perform in U.S., and tonight he appears with Bijelo Dugme, the highly influential Yugoslavian rock band he cofounded in 1974. The group created a crucial opening for pop music behind the iron curtain, but to be honest I find most of the group’s voluminous output unlistenable; its stiff, hyperactive hard rock has aged poorly. At its best Bijelo Dugme retooled traditional themes, presaging what Bregović would later do as a solo artist with jacked-up Romani tunes such as “Ederlezi” and “Djurdjevdan.” The group has gone through many shifts in membership, but Bregović lends legitimacy to this version, which features singers Mladen Vojičić (aka Tifa), who first joined the band in the mid-80s, and his replacement, Alen Islamović.   v

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