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Damir Imamović

There is a rumor about the Balkans being preoccupied with its histories and associated resentment. In fact, in this part of the world, so-called tradition, paradoxically (as the tradition, by default, implies continuity), at least its valued part, appears only episodically.

In now neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a unique music form called sevdah. By some, it is defined as a traditional urban melancholic love song form. This definition is interesting because even the informal Sarajevo anthem, "Kad ja podjoh na Bentbašu", is basically a love song. Yet, as there are sevdah songs that really are not love songs, in the above definition some will replace the term love with the lyric.

Damir Imamović is the grandson and son of renowned ex-Yugoslav sevdah musicians, and being theoretically inclined (he is also a philosopher by education), and well-versed in this field, he might provide a better definition. But the same important, and likely more intriguing part of his work, are his musical creations. He has been musically active for somewhat more than a decade now, establishing himself as a great singer and musician, and a strong author.

Although it was very popular many decades ago, nowadays sevdah is actually not that alive music form. I am visiting Sarajevo occasionally, and no matter how I tried, I just could not find a place permanently offering this kind of music. Damir Imamovic however shows that the sevdah still can move forward. And he did something quite opposite to the somewhat usual late approach here: instead of using traditional sevdah themes to turn them into more modern, globally recognized shapes and forms, thus actually putting it deeper into historical obsolescence, he put a modern experience into some new sevdah songs, thus making sevdah still alive.

As for his recordings' qualities, the arrangements are relatively minimalistic, and at his latest, 2020 release, apart from Damir's voice and tambur, it includes the bass, violin, and kemenche, so you can hear everything. Phase coherence and positioning are also decent. Yet, and despite the recording being signed by Jerry Boys, the overall dynamic presentation is somewhat fragile, lacking some fine points and transparency, and frequency extremes. Damir's music is too good to think about the recording's imperfections at the same time, but then again, it is also why I can't help thinking (or hoping) his best in this area might be yet to come.

The piece linked below is one of the best songs I heard recently. It partially also addresses the problem sketched in the initial paragraph of this post.


And to tell the story about his recordings more complete, his 2016 release, produced by Chris Eckmann (The Walkabouts, Dirtmusic, etc) had more breath and dynamics.

It might also appear more complexly structured, still with a quite minimalistic setup. His singing was already so strongly traditionally founded, so although you can hear more rock-alike bass, and jazzy cymbals riding above, it is undoubtedly a sevdah.


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