“Kalesijski zvuci”, music group from Kalesija: Original music as a tradition is several hundred years old

Hasan Požegić i Jusuf Osmanović FOTO: VELIJA HASANBEGOVIĆ

When Kalesija is mentioned, the first association is “Kalesijski zvuci”, the original group that nurtures the ethno music style specific for northeastern Bosnia, or Sprečanska valley. This type of music is sung in two voices, accompanied by violin and schargija (plucked, fretted long necked chordophone used in the folk music of various Balkan countries), and deals with topics related to love, taverns, they consist of cheerful sayings, but they also tell about the way of life in the countryside, family …

Jusuf Osmanović is a former member of “Kalesijski zvuci” and together with the singer Hasan Požegić he hosted a team of magazines VISIT B&H in his home in Gornji Rainci, near Kalesija.

Absolute boom

– There have been so-called mahtars (Ottoman military bands are thought to be the oldest variety of military marching bands in the world. Though they are often known by the word mahtar in the West, that word, properly speaking, refers only to a single musician in the band.) for hundreds of years, and they played melodic music with violins and schargijas. They went to villages and played at the wedding ceremonies, but also other folk occasions. It was the custom to play for three days. We played folk music and sevdalinka in the 1970s, and in 1982 we formed the group ‘Kalesijski zvuci’, precisely on the foundations of mahtar music. We added accordion, guitar and rhythm section to violins and schargias, and we can say that we are the beginners of this new direction in the original music – says Požegić and adds that the first single record with two songs was released that year.

He says that the song “Selo moje maleno” has found its place on this record, and that it is a kind of anthem of original music, and it was written by Jusuf Osmanović.

– I was thinking of making a song that will live after me, when we stop playing. I wanted to leave something to my people and the village permanently. We recorded a song and it was an absolute boom. At that time, the most popular radio station that was broadcasting original music was Radio Loznica. I remember that journalists read the wishes and greetings of the listeners for two hours, and the song ‘Selo moje maleno’ was broadcasted more than a hundred times a day, Osmanović recalls.

He says that the first record was sold in 100,000 copies, which brought them a trophy for the total circulation in the production of Sarajevo Diskoton, and in 1986 they repeated this success.

Cooperation with Bregović

– What is worth mentioning is that our albums are in music stores in Paris, Sydney, Washington, New York, London … In 1991, Kim Burton, a musicologist from London, studied the original musical culture in the Balkans and came to us. Mirza Hajrić, who then studied in London and was a correspondent for the Sarajevo Newspaper Oslobođenje, brought her. She wanted to make a compilation of songs that we will record and release in London, and Mirza Hajrić played a bass guitar on that CD. Recently Kim announced that she had defended her PhD on original music and working with us helped her. This is a great honor for us, because thanks to ‘Kalesijski zvuci’ and Kim Burton, original music has entered the world music encyclopedia – says Požegić.

With their performances, “Kalesijski zvuci” attracted a lot of attention in the region, so they recorded a duet with Severina, the song “Made in Bosnia”, on Goran Bregovic’s text, which was premiered at the promotion of the Gorica-Goran Bregović Foundation in Sarajevo’s Zetra.

The fact that Hasan Požegić is extremely proud of is that he played the flute in the introductory part of the song “Merjema” by Dino Merlin.