Album review: Damir Imamovic Sevdah Takht – Dvojka [Glitterbeat Records, 29th April 2016]

Damir Imamovic’s Sevdah Takht continue with their stated mission to pursue innovations in modern sevdah music, on their second album Dvojka released at the end of this month. Fronted by Sarajevo born Imamovic, this pan-Balkan band with members from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia bring a range of musical influences to bear on the sevdah tradition in a studied fusion of past and present.

The eleven tracks combine Imamovic’s own compositions with a range of source material including music passed on by tradition bearers, and a song gleaned from an 18th Century manuscript. Broadly speaking the lyrics dwell on classic sevdah themes of love and loss, but Imamovic has a mature and adaptive quality to his singing, managing subtle shifts in expression to catch the mood of each song just so, and giving a consistently powerful vocal performance throughout the whole album.

The violin of Ivana Duric is a welcome addition to the group, the presence of another treble instrument taking the strain of lead and melody a little from Imamovic’s tambur, the two interacting playfully over the inventive accompaniment of Ivan Mihajlovic and Nenad Kovacic (bass  and percussion respectively). Duric also provides some subtle harmonic depth and variety at key moments, such as during ‘Čija Li Je Ono Djevojka Malenawhere a short section of double stopped drones drops a brief Scandinavian flavour onto the predominantly Balkan palette.

A relative sparsity of mid-range chordal accompaniment gives a sense of space to the recording, with a good deal going on in treble and bass registers and not always so much in the middle, however the arrangements are well worked out, and the end result is a distinctive group sound with room for the listener to appreciate the individual contributions. The Imamovic original ‘Opio Se Mladi Jusuf-beg’ is a prime example; in an almost processional ¾ measure it slowly builds on a beautifully sparse introduction of voice and frame drum to unite the whole band in a lilting, swaying finale.