When Azra Sings

my soul aches for the land and time that was Yugoslavia. Twenty years since Yugoslavia ceased to exist, changing our lives and perceptions of common identity irreversibly, this invaluable album comes to present the world with the sublime beauty of its peoples’ musical traditions.

Azra and Pero Teodosijev take us on a divine journey through the musical heritage of our lost homeland. Azra sings of longing for home and youth long gone, her haunting voice threading mesmerizing tales of romance, nostalgia and unrequited love. Her songs span different eras and Yugoslav landscapes, from the dreamy mountains of Macedonia to the plains of Zagorje, from Vranje to the narrow streets of Sarajevo, ending this amazing musical voyage in her and mine hometown Prijedor. As much as she truly is from and of all these places, belonging to them as much as they belong to her, there is a foundation in her interpretations that magically weaves through all her music. Sevdah.
 
Azra’s voice, like no other in this genre, captures the spirit of sevdah in all its delicate, subtle beauty. It reveals the myriad influences that have shaped this Bosnian Fado over the hundreds of years - from the poetry at its heart and Bosnian folk songs, to the Oriental and Sephardic traditions merged in it. When Azra sings, we witness how music becomes a portal to the singer’s soul. And her soul is pure sevdah.

With sevdah in her heart, when she sings, Azra IS Kostana, the mythical raven-haired femme fatale from south Serbia, she IS a Gypsy princess, she IS a mournful maiden from Croatian Zagorje, she IS the most gorgeous of all Prijedor women. In giving them all a voice, her sublime voice, Azra lays before us the beauty of what Yugoslavia was. Like shadows of our past dancing on candle-lit walls, Azra’s songs paint the story of the country we lost.

Yet, in a profound and tragically beautiful way, our loss is your gain. For Azra’s voice emerges from that loss as a precious gift to the world’s music heritage.
 
Refik Hodžić

Refik Hodžić is award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and current Communications Director at International Center for TransitionalJustice.  He lives in New York City, NY.