Ljiljana Buttler Frozen Roses Cover

Cat. Nr.:

SR 66011


Ljiljana Buttler

Release Titel:

Frozen Roses

Release Date:



Snail Records, Netherlands


Gypsy / Roma / Balkans / Serbia / Bosnia




1 Ne Kuni Me Ne Ruzi Me Majko
2 Gjelem Gjelem
3 Pilem Pilem
4 Ej Borije
5 Kada Moja Mladost Prodje
6 Hej Romnji Sem
7 Gypsy Lullaby
8 Sonja
9 Ostala Je Pesma Moja
10 Sumorna Nedelja





The story about the THIRD album , Frozen Roses ( 2009 )

Now, there's her third album, Frozen Roses. As these three albums show, her musical development went on during all those years of silence. The influence of jazz has increased, the blues atmosphere is ever more recognizable, the directness is more felt, culminating in high point which is Frozen Roses. This is a harmonious combination of her roots, Balkan folk, with the rhythmic elements of jazz and a complete absence of needless ornamentation. This development towards a greater directness, towards more simplicity and the mix of Balkan style can clearly be felt on the new album, especially in the following numbers.

Firstly, there is "Gjelem, gjelem", the traditional considered to be the anthem of the Gypsy music. On her first album she sings a version which is completely her own. Even the harmonies there differ from the original version. In Frozen Roses the harmonies are played the usual way, traditionally, but they're played slower, with a jazzy atmosphere, where a trumpet solo is added, by which the number gets a deeper, more serious tone. The meaning of the lyrics doesn't get lost anymore, as it used to in the traditional version where the drama was always emphasised. Here, on the contrary, the meaning is underlined, made clearer by the bareness. We hear something similar in the title opening "Ne kuni me, ne ruzi me majko", one of the most famous Yugoslav traditionals, brought here with the bass and the percussions only. Next, "Kada moja mladost prodje", a famous sevdalinka song written by a legendary sevda-songwriter Jovica Petrovic. No sevda-connoisseur would have believed it that such a strict form like sevdalinka could be sung this way, in a bluesy way, like Ljiljana does here.

In "Ostala je pesma moja" Ljiljana reminisces about one of her best friends. The song is dedicated to a legendary Gypsy singer Vida Pavlovic, in her memory. With her, she played countless times in the Belgrade's kafanas and countless times she sang this song that became a trademark of all the kafanas in Skadarlija, and many others outside of it. in memory of Vida, she changed the lyrics adding a verse:

"To remember Mama Vida.
When she sings
Our hearts break".

The last song on the album has a special meaning within the classic songbook of Balkan music: "Szomorú vasárnap", in the West known as "Gloomy Sunday", a song around interwoven with dark urban legends, which survive to this day. The Hungarian composer Rezsó Seress composed the music in 1933, and his friend, the poet Lászlo Jávor wrote the lyrics. At least... here's where the problems begin already. Some sources say that Seress actually wrote the first two couplets, which then, for unknown reasons, were subsequently replaced by those written by Javor. Whatever the truth might have been, what is sure is that both of them must have found themselves in a state of endless sadness in order to write such a song. The music is made of a repeating theme, a question looking for an answer, which fails to materialize, the question is then being asked again, and again, and again...And every time the vicious circle where there's no possible way of escaping it. In the lyrics a man on a "gloomy Sunday" is grieving about losing his great love and, as the hypnotic music is suggesting, sees no other way out except suicide. It was also a gloomy Sunday, a drowsy autumnal afternoon in a grey Budapest, where Seress was hitting the piano keys in his squalid rented apartment, almost drowning in the gaping emptiness left by the departure of his lover. Almost by itself the chords formed under his hand, pouring into a sombre, hallucinating melody, a fatal repetition of the question to which there was no answer to be found, again and again. In another part of town, in another shabby apartment, the words were dripping from the pen of Laszlo Javor, words trying to render the sadness repressing him because his lover had left him, for good. That's how the text and the melody found each other.

Seress, who until then had enjoyed little success, sent the music and the lyric titled "Gloomy Sunday" to music publishers all of which refused it completely. One of those explained his refusal: "It's not that it's sad. There is a macabre atmosphe.re of inevitable hopelessness hanging about it, and I don't think listening to such a song would bring any good to anyone." Eventually, he did find a publisher and later on a bemused Seress saw his composition becoming a bestseller. Filled with happiness, he sent to his former lover a proof of his success, asking her at the same time about her leaving him, hoping for reconciliation. She failed to answer. A couple of days later he got a message that she was found dead in her apartment. Suicide. Poisoning. In her stiff hand the music charts of Gloomy Sunday.

The song could be heard everywhere now, its music was played often, and more often still Gloomy Sunday got associated with other suicides - so often that is, that the Budapest police insisted the song be prohibited completely. The fatal influence of the music didn't stop in Hungary. From all big cities of Europe, messages arrived about the horrible effects Gloomy Sunday exerted on people. It became unbearable. In Berlin, an eighty-three old man jumped from a tenth floor while the song could be heard from the open window. In Rome, the rumour went, a messenger boy heard someone humming the song. He parked his bicycle by the bridge railing, walked, humming the tune continually, towards it and jumped into the Tiber, to his death...
In England, the fear spread that the supposed effect of the song might be true. The BBC didn't want to censure the song openly, but decided not to play it anyway. When the rumours finally subdued, and eventually disappeared completely, the record could be played again, be it the instrumental version only, of which a gramophone record was released as well. A couple of weeks later, residents of an apartment building in London complained about the music that wouldn't stop: in one of the flats a record player was found, the needle stuck in the groove of the record, repeating the bleak melody. On the couch a body of a woman. On the ground a bottle of barbiturates. Next to it, the charts of Gloomy Sunday.

En Serres? He lived until 1968. And then, a couple of days after his birthday, a small notice appeared in the papers: the composer Rezsó Serres has committed suicide. He jumped from a tall building in Budapest. On a Sunday.
This is one of the many versions of the urban legend about "The Suicide Song". The truth? The legend lives on.

The fact is that the song reached America. In 1936, the first version was recorded and there, too, Gloomy Sunday was well received. But real success came in 1941 when Billie Holiday made her version. The lyrics were translated, most likely not from Hungarian, by Sam M. Lewis, although it's difficult to talk about a translation here; one could rather call it a very loose adaptation. The reason is that he, following the legendary reputation of the song, permitted himself almost inappropriate licence with the original, although his version has some obvious poetic merits. It's striking how, in order to soften the depressing effect, a new verse that wasn't there in the first place has been added, which is trying to comfort the listener, suggesting that everything was just a dream. Here too, the fear that the song would have been otherwise unbearable. The expressiveness of the first two couplets is so strong that the macabre atmosphere of the original is barely scraped. One can see for oneself:

Gloomy Sunday, the Sam M. Lewis version:

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless Little white flowers will never awaken you Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you Angels have no thought of ever returning you Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?

Gloomy Sunday

Gloom is Sunday; with shadows I spend it all My heart and I have decided to end it all Soon there'll be candles and prayers that are sad I know Let them not weep Let them know that I'm glad to go Death is no dream for in death I'm caressing you With the last breath of my soul I'll be blessing you

Gloomy Sunday

Dreaming, I was only dreaming I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart here Darling, I hope that my dream never haunted you My heart is telling you how much I wanted you

Gloomy Sunday

No real romantic could be misled by the clichés of the added third verse. Since then, Seress' song has been covered by almost all the greats of jazz and pop - to give a random sample: Ray Charles, Mel Tormé, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn. And now Ljiljana Buttler too, who with her voice steeped in sadness brings a frightful interpretation of Sumorna Nedelja that makes many other versions pale by comparison. Alas, her interpretation, however impressive, is doomed not to share the success of the Western greats. The limitations are set by a dumb, but for world fame deadly coincidence: language. If her version wasn’t called Sumorna Nedelja but Gloomy Sunday instead, if the words from her mouth weren't those of a small language, but the lyrics of Sam M. Lewis, then surely Ljiljana Buttler would, by preference of Western audiences, too, belong to the gallery of the greatest.

Review written by Chris van den Hoogen. source: snailrecords.nl











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