Goran Bregović is one of the most recognizable modern composers of the Balkans.
Composer and guitarist Goran Bregović has been a household name in the Balkans for over two decades. Bregović has composed for such varied artists as Iggy Pop and Cesária Évora. He earned his fame wielding a guitar with his rock band Bijelo Dugme, a group that rose to stardom and set the groundwork for the Yugoslav rock scene. Known here for his scores for countryman Emir Kusturica’s films (Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream, Underground), Bregović commands an ensemble that matches his larger-than-life persona. A rowdy brass band, bagpipes, a string ensemble, a tuxedo-clad all-male choir from Belgrade, and traditional Bulgarian and Roma singers make up his dynamic 40-piece band and orchestra. Bregović’s compositions, extending Balkan musical inspirations to innovative extremes, draw upon European classicism and Balkan rhythms, evoking rock’s searing power as well as the repose of sacred sounds–all fueled by the insistent drive of brass. (Source: Lincoln Center Festival website)
Bregović is an extremely versatile artist, composing and performing a wide range of genres - he has become widely reknown for his interpretations of traditional Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian music, bringing modern, Western influences to its powerful and energetic base, but is also a very prolific movie soundtrack author and performer. Attending a Bregović concert is a wild trip over all kinds of styles, going from solo performances to full-orchestra masterpieces, from simplest to most complex.
Goran Bregović was born on March 22, 1950 in Sarajevo, Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) to a Croat father and a Serb mother. His father was an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army. His parents divorced and he remained living with his mother in Sarajevo.
Goran played violin in a music school, but was thrown out of it in second grade for being untalented. His musical education was thus reduced to what his friend taught him until Goran's mother bought him his first guitar in his early teens. Bregović was to enter a fine arts school but his aunt told his mother that it was full of homosexuals. His mother sent him to a technical (traffic) school and allowed him to grow long hair as a compromise. Upon entering the school, Goran joined the school band Izohipse and played bass guitar. But he was kicked out of that school, too (this time for misbehaviour - he crashed a school-owned Mercedes). Bregović then entered grammar school and its school band Beštije (again as a bass guitar player). When he was sixteen, his mother left him and went to the coast. Goran had to take care of himself. He did that by playing folk music in a bar in Konjic, working on construction sites, and selling newspapers.
At a Beštije gig Željko Bebek spotted him and invited him to play bass guitar in his band Kodeksi. Goran accepted. In the summer of 1969 they played for tourists in hotel Splendid in Dubrovnik. After finishing their job there, they were invited to Naples to play in a night club. They accepted, but lost their employment there by playing more progressive music and refusing to play the same repertoire as in Dubrovnik, which was what the owner wanted of them. Still, they remained in Naples and continued to play the music they fancied. In next few months Kodeksi shifted setup so Goran moved from bass guitar to lead guitar, and in the summer of 1970 "Kodeksi" had the following line-up: Goran Bregović, Željko Bebek, Zoran Redžić and Milić Vukašinović. All of them would eventually become members of Bijelo dugme at some point in the future. At the time, they were largely influenced by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, which was the merit of Milić Vukašinović who "infected" them with that kind of music. In the fall of 1970 this resulted in departure of Željko Bebek who (both as rhythm guitar player and singer) wasn't needed anymore in the band. At the end of the year, Goran's mother and Zoran's brother arrived to Naples and took the band back to Sarajevo.
Then in the autumn of 1971 Goran entered university and decided to study philosophy and sociology. He soon quit, however. In the same time Milić Vukašinović left for London, so Goran and Zoran started playing in a band, named Jutro (trans. "Morning"). The band in the next few years transformed a lot and on January 1, 1974 the band changed its name to Bijelo Dugme ("White Button").
At the time Bijelo Dugme was falling apart, Goran entered the world of film music. His first project was Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies (1989) which turned out a great success (both the film and the music from it). Goran and Emir's collaboration continued, and Goran composed music (which was performed by Iggy Pop) for Emir's next film Arizona Dream (1993). His next major project, music for Patrice Chéreau's Queen Margot was again a great success, and the film won 2 awards on the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. Next year's Golden Palm went to Underground, for which Goran Bregović composed the music.
Bregović's music carries both South Slavic and Romani themes and is a fusion of popular music with traditional polyphonic music from the Balkans, tango and brass bands. Although he is a very popular musician in Eastern Europe, Bregović has been accused on several occasions of 'stealing' original Romani and folk music of the Balkans and ultimately rewriting and branding it as his own creation. In 1997, he worked with Turkish singer Sezen Aksu, on her album Düğün ve Cenaze. In the year 2000 Bregović recorded an album Kayah i Bregović (Kayah and Bregović) with popular Polish singer Kayah which sold over 650 000 copies in Poland (6 times platinium record).
In 2005 he took part in 3 large farewell concerts of Bijelo Dugme.
Goran Bregović currently lives in Paris with his spouse Dženana Sudžuka and their three daughters: Ema, Una and Lulu. He also has a daughter Željka (from his university days relationship with a dancer in a Sarajevo night club) who gave birth to Goran's grand daughter Bianca. He has a brother named Predrag who lives in New York.