DSB Interview with Haris Abdagich: “La Musique Speaks Tutto Linguae”

DSB Interview with Haris Abdagich: “La Musique Speaks Tutto Linguae”

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Haris Abdagich

If you constantly read all the articles what we share here on DSB, you now probably would know who is Haris Abdagich, his band Balkañeros and their cover song about “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits.

About month ago, we shared their version of “Money for Nothing” on our blog (click here). After that our team tried to contact Haris and his band, and we’ve got positive feedback from them. We made interesting interview with Haris, who is front man of Balkañeros, and he shared with us very interesting things of his life and the story with his band.

The complete interview with Haris is below, enjoy in reading and give your support to this interesting band from Bosnia and Herzegovina. From this interview, we can say that Haris is one positive person with a lot of future in him and a lot of focus on his work, even and when there are hard times, like once they were.

Interview with Haris Abdagich – Balkañeros 

1. Firstly we want to thank to Haris and Balkañeros for this exclusive interview for the Dire Straits Blog. Can you tell us something more about yourself and your band?

First of all, thank you for following the band BalkañEros and promoting us worldwide. I am a musician from Bosnia, as you already know. In my (more than 20 years long) experience I played with many bands and I was involved in many projects. And finally, 6 years ago, it all clicked together when I found my band BalkañEros. That’s the project of my life and the crown of my musical career.

2. How old are you, where are you live and where are you from?

I’m 39 years old, living in one industrial town in Bosnia, called Zenica. Once upon a time Zenica was a huge industrial center, but is not anymore. Actually, I am from one small town in the heart of Bosnia, called Donji Vakuf. It also had a great industry, but not anymore.

City of Donji Vakuf

And about Zenica, one more thing can be interesting for this story. In its “golden age”, it was a very important place for Yugoslavian Rock N’ Roll music, because it had very good and critical audience, so many big Ex-Yugoslavian bands had their most important first steps here in Zenica.

3. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Mostly I play with my little daughter Kira, or I play music, or I mix it together and play music to my daughter Kira.

4. Is the band your professional work or just you are only crew which perform in public when you will have time?

I must say that in Bosnia it’s almost impossible to work with music as a job. There are very few professional musicians around and they mostly play some kind of mainstream music. So, almost all of the band members have a full time job. But recently (let’s say in the past year) we signed some very important contracts and made a huge step towards professional career.

Firstly, we signed for the biggest label of former Yugoslavia, called Croatia Records and secondly, we signed for FTV – state TV house of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to be the host band of the biggest and the most expensive TV show in Bosnia and Herzegovina, called TV Bingo Show (the lottery thing), which we are successfully doing for 9 months already). We even performed our version of “Money for Nothing” in that show.

5. What is the exact genre of the music that Balkañeros plays? Is that something mixed with Rock N’ Roll – Pop, classic and traditional music?

Partly you gave the answer in your question. It is something mixed with Rock N’ Roll – Pop, classic and traditional music indeed, but the word “something” maybe gives the most close answer. We like to call our style “BalkanEros Rock N’ Roll”.

Actually, we were seeking for our genre for years, but I think we caught it with few last singles – Balkanjeros Rokenrol, Da Da Da, Ljeto, Sicilija and of course the cover of Money for Nothing.

We enjoy in mixing the world R’n’R (and not just R’n’R) heritage with Bosnian and Balkan sensibility. Also, we don’t want to be a classic Balkan beat band. We like to think about ourselves as being more suptile than that. So, it’s complicated and simple in the same time. Balkan itself is complicated and simple at same time, so probably we are just a regular Balkan Band.

6. How many members Balkañeros have, and are they all from the same country?

BalkanEros counts 7 members and they are not just from the same country, but from the same town. We all live in Zenica. As I mentioned earlier, Zenica is an industrial town, so foreign people are endemic here. When we see some Italian or Englishman, we make a public celebration. Joking of course, but it’s not far from the truth.

7. We read that Haris have interesting life story, he was lived in UK and after that he get back to Bosnia. Can you tell us something about your life period in UK and your childhood?

Let’s start for the childhood. First of all, I must say that here in Balkan, especially Bosnia, we measure the time like this: before the war, during the war and after the war. Something similar to B.C. and A.D. So, mostly, my childhood was happening before the war and it was a happy one. My parents were very caring and gave me (and my sister Alma) incredible upbringing and education, with big accent on music. Since my earliest ages, my music talent and potential was recognized by family, friends and neighbors (neighbors especially loved my singing and playing – even today they will greet me from their balconies telling me to reduce the volume).

My father was a director of the Cultural center of Donji Vakuf (later he was a professional actor in Zenica theater) and my mother was a nurse. So, we were a regular Yugoslavian happy socialistic family. Than came the war, so sister and I were separated from parents and lived next 3 and half years as refugees in Croatia, but constantly playing music.

Haris Abdagich

Music was our passport and our identification, so very soon, despite the war and all national(istic) issues, we were recognized as musicians and somehow escaped the faith of regular refugees (meaning, we socialized very well and we had a lot of friends in Croatia). After returning to Bosnia (it was still war time – ’94), I was approached by one British photographer called Dave Clark, when I was playing music on the street with my friends. So he invited me to England, where I stayed for few months in 1995 and also few months in 1996.

In the first visit of England, I stayed in Maidenhead, spending a lot of time in London and holding many peace concerts all around England – London, Maidenhead, Manchester, Lancaster, even Wells. I returned to Bosnia because the war was coming to it’s end and I was too excited about that. Than in 1996 I was invited again. This time my English hosts – sisters Patricia and Catherine – enrolled me in L.I.P.A. (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) summer music school and offered me a full scholarship for 4-year academy.

Haris in Liverpool – 1996.

But my sister’s daughter Lejla (Layla) was just born and I was too excited about that, so once again I came back to Bosnia and stayed for long. I graduated comparative literature on the University of Sarajevo and worked in the Public Library of Zenica for last 15 years. Recently I took a break from the job and now I’m trying to do music professionally.

Haris, his sister Alma and Lejla.

Through these years I played with numerous bands and I was involved in many projects. I composed music and was writing screenplays for several TV shows (on mentioned FTV and some other TV and radio stations). I was also a front man of the band „Nebo iznad krajolika“ (Skies Above the Landscape) – which was a part of eponymous movie project.

8. When and how did started the whole story of Balkañeros?

The story of Balkañeros started in 2011, after I decided to quit with music and do just my regular library job. I was tired of everything, because (as I already said) it is not easy to be a musician in Bosnia. But, then I got this new crazy energy and invented this crazy band, so I’m happier than ever.

The fact is that I gave the name to my band even before gathering of Balkañeros. I hosted (via couch surfing) the guy who’s name is Pedro Acevedo Gonzalez and he was mentioning the Balkan community of Mexico, called Balkañeros. I was totally fascinated with that word, because it was somehow explaining me to myself. We are all Balkañeros, despite nationality, country, religion or whatever.

Also when you divide the word to Balkan and Eros, you get Balkan Love. So that’s how I chose the name BalkanEros. After that (very soon after I decided to quit with music) I started to gather musicians for BalkanEros. The big role was played by a French guy Samuel Engelmajer, who I also hosted through couch surfing. He came to stay for 2 days only, but he stayed 10 months, playing with BalkanEros and giving us much energy and inspiration. He even made it possible for us to record our first unofficial album. I’m not sure that we would have had the same development as a band if he wasn’t involved in our beginnings.

9. From where came the idea to create cover song by Dire Straits – ‘Money for Nothing’ and how that was realized?

On our gigs we were regularly playing some Balkan-way covers of R’n’R, but somehow Dire Straits were managing to escape this idea. Probably, they are too big and it was too brave to do this „thing“ with some of their songs.

On one of our rehearsals we started to play the song for fun, not having the intention to do anything more serious with it. I mean, what is there to do with a perfect song, right? But we enjoyed too much playing this song and we couldn’t leave it aside. We felt like we had to make a way to fit the song into BalkanEros style.

We already adopted accordion with a wish to give rehabilitation to this instrument (because on Balkan, accordion has a bad reputation), so it was a great way to accomplish this goal, to introduce accordion to this song. I believe we gave Balkan to the world and world to Balkan, by ‘mixing unmixable’. So, when we started to play Money for Nothing with accordion and this ska beat it became irresistible and we felt like it kinda goes well, like it totally fits and was meant to be. The rest is history.

10. Are you fan of music from Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler?

I am a huge huge fan of Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler is one of my greatest role models and idols. The interesting thing is that Mark Knopfler was involved in foundation of L.I.P.A. school that I attended in 1996. Then, 20 years after that, I was shared on Facebook by Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits. For me it’s a great example of life cyrcling and great confirmation that I made some right choices in my life.

11. Which are your favorite classic songs from Dire Straits?

All of them are great, but I would give a special mention to the meditative ballad „Why Worry“ and of course “Sultans of Swing”, mostly because of one verse that depicts my life (just to mention, my regular nickname is Hari/Harry):

“And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright
He can play the honky tonk like anything
Saving it up for Friday night
With the Sultans, with the Sultans of Swing…”

DSB: After this we can just say that in life nothing is accidental.

12. What is your next project? We see that you are creating new songs, “Sicilija”, “Da Da Da”, “Balkanjeros Rokenrol”, did Balkañeros have something for publishing next year? What are your plans about the future of this band?

Yes, we do a lot of things. The greatest plan, the holy grail of the band is playing around Europe on different festivals and venues. So, to come closer to this idea, we decided to publish more covers, beside our original songs.

So, I can say that the „Money for Nothing“ cover really showed us the right path to maybe bring this idea closer to realization. Actually, we have a joke (which is even not a joke) that our ultimate goal is to have a concert on Wembley. So, we do our best to keep our actions and energies aligned with that goal. Who knows what’s next, right?

13. What is your motto in life and what is that which motivates you to continue with good vibes and positive energy in life?

I learned my life motto from one Indian world traveler Somen Debnath, who I also hosted through couch surfing. He told me something like this: “Love leads to devotion and devotion leads to creation.”

There is also a motto that we use for BalkanEros and it fits to my whole life and a life of every musician. My late father (who didn’t speak foreign languages) used this sentence when he wanted to make a conversation with a group of foreign people. It goes like this:  ”La Musique Speaks Tutto Linguae”. No need to translate this one, I hope.

15. And for the end can you tell something to all fans who read the Dire Straits Blog?

Continue reading this amazing blog, continue listening to Dire Straits and stay devoted.

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