goran bregovicGoran Bregovic is a musician and composer from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He became famous as a composer of film music and for his interpretations of traditional Balkan and especially Roma songs and is one of the internationally known representatives of Balkan music.
Bregovic was born in Sarajevo in 1950, the son of Serbian and Croatian parents. He began his musical career at 16. He learned to play guitar and was a member of the amateur group Beštije. He studied violin several years at the conservatoire, but was thrown out because of being absent too often. After an intermezzo as a student of philosophy, he founded his first band, Jutro (Morning), in 1974. Since audiences at their concerts were always joining in the chorus of the band’s greatest hit at the time “Kad bih bio Bijelo Dugme” at the top of their voices, the band unceremoniously changed their name to Bijelo Dugme (White Button). The band mixed Western rock music with folk elements of the Balkans to become the most successful rock band in Yugoslavia. Until its dissolution in 1988, the band had numerous hits and were popular beyond the borders of Yugoslavia in many countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe.
Goran Bregovic is famous internationally due primarily to his work as a composer of film music. His first soundtrack was for the film “Nije nego” by Mica Milosevic in 1978. But it was through his collaboration with filmmaker Emir Kusturica (“Time of The Gypsies”, “Underground”, “Black Cat - White Cat”) that Goran Bregovic became world-famous.
Bregovic, who has a Croatian father and a Serbian mother, defines himself as a Yugoslav, although this term is no longer used since the dissolution of the country in the 1990s. His wife Dženana is a Bosnian Muslim. After having lived in Belgrade and Paris during the 1990s, Bregovic decided to move back to his hometown of Sarajevo in July 2011 with his wife and children.
Goran Bregovic also plays his music live with the Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. Every year they perform more than 100 concerts worldwide. The orchestra exists in various sizes, at times including up to 40 musicians. It consists of a brass section, a string ensemble, and a men's and women's choir. The songs are sung in several languages, including Romani, the language of the Roma (gypsies). One of the main vocalists is Serbian Roma singer and drummer Alen Ademovic.
Groran Bregovic has also collaborated with many international artists, allowing them to interpret his songs in their own language. He has worked with Krzysztof Krawczyk and Kayah in Poland, with Sezen Aksu in Turkey, with Giorgos Dalaras and Alkistis Protopsalti in Greece and with Iggy Pop in the USA.
On the album “Tales and Songs from Weddings and Funerals” released in 1997, he played several songs with legendary Roma singer Saban Bajramovic from Serbia. For the Eurovision Song Contest in 2010, Bregović wrote the song “Ovo je Balkan” (This is the Balkans) for the Serbian participant Milan Stankovic who landed 13th place with the song. Bregovic recorded that song again with the Gipsy Kings for his most recent album “Champagne for Gypsies” released in 2012. That album also features Swiss musician Stephan Eicher and Eugen Hütz, lead singer of the American gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.
Despite his great success internationally, Goran Bregovic is viewed critically in his home country, especially by the Roma community. He is accused of using Roma music without having ever really worked seriously with Roma musicians. Furthermore, he is said to feed Western Europe with Balkan clichés and stereotypes. Since the time of his and Emir Kusturica’s success, local bands only have a chance abroad if they decorate their music and image with ethnic and folkloric elements.


Text: Robert Lippuner / Gypsy Music Network


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