The album Zavrzlama by Bosnian band Divanhana is so far in continuous sequence, the second best world recording of 2022 according to the panel of radio publicists of World Music Charts Europe. Divanhana will perform as part of the Lednice-Valtice Music Festival on 26 August in Hlohovec and a day later in Břeclav – Charvátská Nová Ves. The band’s pianist, Neven Tunjíč, is here to answer our questions.
Your current album has a strange name Zavrzlama. What does the word mean?
The word “zavrzlama” means knot or some sort of mess when a lot of things get tangled up. But it can also be figuratively conveyed into every day life in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where people of different religions and different nationalities come together. This means that the political life in our country is very complicated and all this binds us together into one large knot. We all have a Bosnian heart and our life is sometimes complicated and other times less so. And this is what the beautiful songs that come from our tangled country speak of.
Is your music also a sort of jumble?
Yes, we created an album as a tangle or knot of different musical styles that are interrelated. We drew from our traditional music which is called sevdalinka or Sevdah music. Then there is the very important layer of so-called kafana music, which in its way is based on sevdalinka. And finally there is the newest layer, songs written in the modern era after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many artists began writing their own sevdalinka songs and we are also one of these artists as we also write our own original music which is rooted in the sevdalinka. Thus on one album we bring together different music genres.
On the other hand, what do the songs on your album have in common?
As I have already said, all these songs, even though they come from different sources, are rooted in our traditional music called Sevdah. They also have a common language, the band is the same and all the songs are brought together by the idea of recording an album in a studio in Ljubljana, so we will all be sitting in one room and will record the album at one go as was done some thirty years ago. All these songs have a common energy that hopefully we will manage to transfer to the album.
You recorded the album the old way on analogue tapes. Why?
I think that we learned from past mistakes when we recorded the album digitally. When using analogue recording equipment, the original dynamics of the band can be preserved on the recording. It is also better given that we use many traditional acoustic instruments. Now we have been able to express our energy on the album. We also have a great producer from Slovenia, Janez Križaj, who has plenty of experience and worked on a great number of recordings, including punk albums. I think it was he who advised us to try out this rather old-fashioned way of recording, because this is what our band should sound like. And I think he was right because people like the sound of our album.
Virtually all musicians who have recently released an album talk about how their new recordings have been influenced by the coronavirus crisis. How did the pandemic affect the creation of your album?
We managed to record the album just before the coronavirus crisis, but we mixed the recording during the pandemic. And I think that this helped us, because we had enough time for it. Otherwise we are constantly performing concerts and travelling. When we could not travel we could fully devote our time to completing the album. We sat at home, sent the recording to each other, discussed it and asked other people what they thought of it. So this gave rise to a collective work which many of our co-workers contributed to in the last two years. And I am truly proud of the result.
Can you define what the source of this pride is?
Above all what is new on this album is that we play our own music on it. I also feel as though this is a new start for the band. During the pandemic we could not play at all and now it is as if we are starting from scratch again. And this also relates to the fact that we are beginning with something new with our own music. In fact we are not discovering anything new, but we are discovering ourselves through our own songs. This is how this album differs from all our previous recordings.
We touched on Sevdah music. How would you present it to visitors to your concerts in Moravia?
It is hard to explain to people what exactly Sevdah music means. I would compare it, for example, to the Portuguese fado or the flamenco. This is music which you feel in the heart. And you can feel the same when listening to sevdalinka songs. It is music that originated in an urban environment in the territory of present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time of the Ottoman Empire. But it is also music which is emerging in the present day and tells the story of present everyday life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sevdah is the song of our life.
Do you have any musical heroes that have influenced you in your approach to music?
Many traditional songs were written by unknown authors, but we can say that all the artists who played this music in the territory of the former Yugoslavia have influenced us in some way. They were such artists as Himzo Polovina, Safet Isović or Zehra Deović. But also some of these are also artists are from Bosnia and Herzegovina such as Damir Imamović, Amira Medunjanin, Božo Vrećo or the band Mostar Sevdah Reunion. In fact everything we listen to influences our music.
Your album was top of the monthly World Music Charts Europe (in March and April 2002) and so far you have been continuously ranked second out of all global interpreters throughout the year. Is this important to you?
This success is a truly important for the band, because it is confirmation that we are heading in the right direction. We would certainly like to continue in the same way and be able to record our own music. But success in the charts is also important for our “business”, for those who organise our concerts, for our managers and the like. So I hope that it will bring us lots of further interesting work. We want to concentrate above all on travelling, on being able to play to more and more people. Thus I hope that this brings our band more concerts.
Do you know what your next album could look like?
We already have a clear idea of the next direction the band will take. We already have a few new songs. So we want to further develop our own work and present our band through our own songs. In addition, we will draw from the world around us and continue to discover the folk music of our country. We also have ideas for further collaboration with interesting artists. Thus we have lots of plans and we hope that the coronavirus is on the retreat and we will really be able to continue to live a normal life. And that our dreams will come true.