Goran Bregovic

Pub date June 16, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

PREVIEW I’m a reactionary when it comes to miscegenated American pop and world music: Paul Simon’s South African appropriations (unself-conscious baby-boom entitlement), Vampire Weekend’s recent iteration (self-conscious, sneering entitlement), and Beirut’s similar (well-meaning, self-conscious attempts at naturalness) foray into the Eastern European musical forms. I mean, come on you well-born Eastern-seaboard Protestants, don’t you have your own cultural traditions to plunder?

Without a qualm, one can look toward the Balkans as a source for authentic cultural product. In the previous century alone, this region’s peoples have been battered about by bitter battles among fascist, communist, and capitalist systems. Against this political backdrop, ordinary life takes on an air of untethered surreality, and life can imitate art, and/or art becomes the most logical response to the ambient chaos. In the case of Goran Bregovic, his life resembles an amalgam of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n Roll and Aleksandar Hemon’s Nowhere Man. Half-Serb, half-Croat, Bregovic has had a long musical career (he’s been a professional guitar player since 15) and currently composes film scores as well as modern-day gypsy music.

Bregovic played with a Yugoslavian rock band called the White Button, and became a bona fide Balkan teen rock idol. He lived in a drug-dazed Italian exile at 20, and was nearly a professor of Marxism by 24. He is a thoroughly modern global star, and has collaborated with Iggy Pop and Cesaria Evora. Bregovic is currently on tour with a nearly 40-person ensemble called the Wedding and Funeral Orchestra. The gypsies are real, the horns are very likely 100 years old, and there’s a string ensemble, a men’s choir, and three Bulgarian singers. The tunes range from mournful to ecstatic; if cathartic party music speaks to you, this is your show.

GORAN BREGOVIC WITH WEDDING AND FUNERAL ORCHESTRA Sun/21, 7 p.m., $20-$60. Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California, SF. (415) 776-4702. www.sfjazz.org