“Goran Bregovic is playing The Barbican,” I was told. I was not quite sure if that would be the same Goran I’d heard of years before who played gipsy-style music with a Weddings and Funerals Band. That sort of thing can’t be seen in the Barbican; he wouldn’t fit in, thought I.
So we went there and everything seemed typical of The Barbican; sophisticated. But on entering the Barbican Hall the first thing that struck me was that my friend seemed to be one of the very few English people in the audience. At least 80% of the public were Eastern European – Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Slovakian and much else besides. Great!
Then it all began – in a most amazing way: with the Poznan String Orchestra, the Belgrade Male Choir and Ognjan Radivojevic singing in Spanish – everyone was puzzled. “We want the Underground tracks!” was the whisper around. Four Bulgarian folk vocalists, dressed in ‘traditional’ garb, appeared followed by Goran Bregovic, looking resplendent in a white suit, with his gipsy brass band. The applause was out of this world as he played Underground Tango. The audience went ecstatic; the third song had the audience on its collective feet.
It was absolutely amazing. With 43 people on the stage, all from different countries and musical backgrounds – the Polish string orchestra, the Belgrade choir singing in Serbian (most of the time very Orthodox church songs), the Bulgarian vocalists singing very traditional folk songs, the gipsy band, the Debouka and Goran being the “Maestro”. Everything was there: Balkan folk, gipsy rhythms, the string orchestra and Goran.
He was, however, well prepared for an English audience and even sang some tracks in English. For Mjesecina (Moonlight) well nigh everyone was on their feet dancing – and so they stayed. One girl jumped on the stage and began dancing, in the process causing the security guard real difficulties in removing her. The staff were constantly on the stairs telling people not to stand in the way. Towards the end, the very fast Kalasnjikov was played for a second time and the excitement reached its peak. People were jumping with joy and the joy was evident in their smiles. A few rows in front of us people were taking pictures of the audience: perhaps they had never seen The Barbican Hall looking like this.
Congratulations to Goran. He is promoting the music of the Balkans more than anyone else and people love him. I had a fantastic night, but I did wish to see more English people – maybe next time.