Music for dreamers and romantics

  • 2004-09-29
  • By Tim Ochser
RIGA - I'll never forget when I went to see the movie "The Time of the Gypsies" on a cold, gray afternoon in London. I left the movie theater in a trance, headed straight to the nearest record store and bought the soundtrack. I'd admired many film soundtracks on first hearing them, but I'd never before been so deeply touched by one that I just had to go and immediately get it.

There have been many great collaborations between film directors and composers, from Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Hermann to Krzysztof Kieslowski and Zbigniew Preisner. But none has probably had as wide an impact as that of Emir Kusturica and Goran Bregovic.

Bregovic, like his one-time friend Kusturica, was born in Sarajevo. He started out with a rock group called The White Button at the age of 16. The group was hugely popular in the then-Yugoslavia, and Bregovic was something of an idol. But it wasn't until he teamed up with Kusturica in 1988 to make the music for "The Time of the Gypsies" that he abandoned his cheesy rock roots and started to make the sort of music that would make him so popular throughout the whole of Europe.

The score for "The Time of the Gypsies" is a combination of authentically rendered Balkan gypsy music and quirkily atmospheric songs. But even after all these years the anthemic "Ederlezi" still remains one of the most moving songs I've ever heard.

Bregovic then went on to work with Kusturica on "Arizona Dream" in 1993, which produced the wonderful "In the Deathcar," in which Iggy Pop mumbled such memorable lines as: "When your hand was down on my dick, it felt quite amazing."

But, for me at least, Bregovic's crowning achievement was his soundtrack for Kusturica's 1995 masterpiece "Underground." (Which won the Palm d'Or, as did "La Reine Margot in 1994," also scored by Bregovic.)

With "Underground" Bregovic perfected his big-band interpretation of Balkan gypsy music, while also creating some indescribably beautiful music of his own that he worked around a single, tango-like melody. Both music and image perfectly told the story of the absurdity, beauty and misery that was Yugoslavia.

But after three years of working together on "Underground" Bregovic and Kusturica parted ways. By that time, though, Bregovic had amassed a huge following in Europe, most notably in Italy, France and Poland.

He's made several more albums since then, largely continuing in the same Balkan/gypsy vein, and toured extensively.

More recently, he's had a stab at acting, starring in the 2002 Norwegian film "Weddings for Weddings and Funerals." o

Goran Bregovic

Kipsala Hall, Riga,

Oct. 8, 9 p.m.

Tickets: 10 lats (15 euros) 's 25 lats, VIP 40 lats

Vilnius Congress Palace

Oct. 9, 8 p.m.Tickets: 120 litas

(34 euros) - 240 litas