The composer and musician Goran Bregovic (1950) is a living legend for everyone around the world who enjoys music from the Balkans. At his concerts 3 things are basically impossible to do: Not to smile, not to dance and not to drink. Of course the born Yugoslavian musician gives the right example, as he gets completely intoxicated on both music and rakija or whisky at every performance. Bregovic once claimed that he doesn’t drink that much, and that he almost exclusively does it on stage. Well, let’s just say the man does a lot of gigs.
The son of a Croatian father and a Serbian mother Goran Bregovic was born in Sarajevo, capital of the multicultural region of Bosnia that also contained a lot of Muslims, sometimes referred to as Bosniaks. Basically he was the personification of Yugoslavia, and he still is through his music. Everywhere around the world Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims come together to listen to ‘Brega’, who shows himself even more a representative of the Balkans by using many Greek, Bulgarian and Roma (the dominant gypsy tribe in the peninsula) influences in his music.
An influence of another kind for Bregovic’ music is booze. In the good tradition of the Balkans many of his songs involve drinking. The born Yugoslavian even composed an album with the name Alkohol. “My father was an alcoholic and my mother divorced him for it”, he explained the title. “After that he didn’t drink for 15 years, until my mother died of leukemia. Then my father planted a vineyard that produced 1.000 liters of wine a year, which he mostly drank alone. He outlived my mother by 20 years. That’s why I dedicated Alkohol to my parents.”
In his own way Bregovic seemed to say you can’t control your faith, so do what makes you happy. His own recipe for happiness clearly involve music and booze. Or as he once said it: “Everyone has his own ways. One is shooting in the air, drink a bottle of 1.000 Euro wine or give away a ring made from tin foil. Yeah well, I wear this stupid suit, have a glass of whisky and I’m surrounded by people whom I enjoy.”
And some times Brega’s unusual lifestyle leads to a creative outburst, like writing an opera. In 2004 he completed Karmen with a Happy End. “When I wrote this opera I had a period when I wanted to drink at the national theatre (of Belgrade, MB). You didn’t get searched at the entrance, so you can bring a flask, sit in the lodge and watch opera or ballet for 3 hours. Just enough to drink solidly. There I ran into the opera Carmen. And under the influence of liquor I wondered how this opera would look if Roma played it.” And the gypsy main character of this world famous opera got the music of her people.
In the future when he’s done smashing himself on stage, while encouraging the crowd to do the same, Bregovic still has a boozy dream left. The most successful musician of the Balkans wants to be a wine maker, as he owns his father’s old vineyard. “After he died I had my cousin take care of it and send me 300 liters a year, as the rest was for him. But his wife killed herself, and after that he was not interested in wine anymore. I then found someone else to do it for me, but he died within 6 months of throat cancer. This village has 20 habitants plus me. I already killed 2 of them, so it’s better to make this wine myself when I retire.”
We grant him this peaceful retirement, but also hope it won’t be for many more years.