Divanhana: Zavrzlama

July 21, 2022

Tangled Up in Blues

Listening Post 351. The title of Divanhana’s sixth album is a Bosnian word meaning “knotted,” a refreshing departure from overused terms like “fusion” and “blending” to describe music that unites diverse elements. Based in sevdah (sometimes called Bosnian blues), the Sarajevo-based band’s wonderful tangle encompasses the Balkan, Turkish and Sephardic strands from which the style was woven in the sixteenth century; the jazz, classical, Latin and pop elements they add; and their intoxicating mix of traditional, town and tavern songs, plus freshly written compositions. At the album’s core is seduction—premeditated or spontaneous, mutual or one-sided, camouflaged or transparent, joyous or despairing. Across 11 tracks (sung in Bosnian, Serbian and Romani) the band dazzles with romance, humor and sorrow, in stories laced with scenic detail and rich metaphors. Heart and feet race in Ćilim (Carpet, video 1), featuring a man entranced by the sway of his neighbor’s wife as she washes a rug; while the magnificent/melancholy Stade se cvijeće rosom kititi (The Flowers Sprinkle Themselves with Dew, video 2) portrays a young woman married off to an old man. The dance tempo of Sarajčice, hajdemo (Sarajevo Girl, Let’s Go, video 3), accompanies the ballet of a man who makes lavish promises and a woman who sees right through them. Both partners are willing but the family matriarch objects in Oj, Curice (Oh, Girl, video 4). And a fabled hilltop mosque is the setting for a mystery involving a doomed couple and a fairy—or is it a kerchief?— in Na Kušlatu se mahrama vihori (At Kushlat the Scarf is Whirling, video 5). The driving forces of Zavrzlama are Šejla Grgić’s charismatic voice, Neven Tunjić’s compositions and keyboards and Nedžad Mušović’s accordion, aided by a superb ensemble of band members and guests. And like the dramatis personae they introduce, the artists of Divanhana are, through their music, masters of seduction. (CPL Music)

Divanhana: Zavrzlama
Šejla Grgić: Lead vocals, organ, kazoo*
Neven Tunjić: Piano, organ, programming, backing vocals
Nedžad Mušović: Accordion, organ, backing vocals
Azur Imamović: Double bass, electric bass, backing vocals
Irfan Tahirović: Percussion, backing vocals

Guest artists
Danica Krstić: Vocals
Rok Nemo Nemanjič: Trumpet
Goran Bojčevski: Flute
Ivan Bobinac: Tambourine, bass prim, backing vocals
Iwan Josipovic: Tambourines, bass prim, prim, kontra, backing vocals
Lana Kostić: Cello
Duygu Demir: Cello
Carlos Yoder: Tabla
Janez Križai: organ
Adin Taletović: Guitar, electric guitar, banjo, backing vocals
Klemen Bračko: Violin

*In June 2022, Divanhana announced the departure of Šejla Grgić. The band’s new lead singer is Selma Droce.

Related post. Divanhana: Zukva – Sevdah from Bosnia’s Finest, Listening Post 68, October 16, 2016. https://worldlisteningpost.com/2016/10/16/divanhana-zukva-sevdah-from-bosnias-finest/


Ćilim / Carpet
Lyrics: Samir Šojko, Neven Tunjić / Music: Šejla Grgić, Neven Tunjić, Nedžad Mušović, Irfan Tahirović, Pavel Shalman, Georgij Makazaria,  Titus Vadon, Zebo Adam, Dima Miller

(From the Bosnian lyrics)
When my neighbor’s wife washes a rug/She sways too much and seduces me
And I am poor, and I drink my coffee/And I hide my eyes from my wife

If my wife washed like that/My head wouldn’t hurt
I would not envy my neighbor/I would not dream about his wife

Oh rug, oh rug take the neighbor’s wife down the river
Oh breeze, oh breeze, or just spread her dress

For me it’s the same every summer/His wife will walk down the Miljacka*
She’ll bring a small rug/To feed my soul

*a river in Sarajevo


Stade se cvijeće rosom kititi/The Flowers Sprinkle Themselves with Dew
Lyrics & music: Traditional

(From the Bosnian lyrics)
The flowers sprinkle themselves with dew/The pearls have started lining themselves with gold
Silver threads are silvering themselves/Young men propose to girls

Only I have no one, nowhere/Only I have no heroic darling
Only me, sad, sadly feel sorrow/Only I don’t look forward to anything

I watch the dove, the female dove/I look at the swallow and his lady
I watch as they kiss each other/I watch as they look forward to life

I was never loved by anyone/I was never kissed by anyone
I never met the dawn/I never led the sevdah

They gave me away, a young girl to an old man/They gave me to an old man for the money
So that I, young girl, could take care of his house/So I could caress his white beard

The old man, no longer needed by the young me/The old one only wears me out
I want love, life and joy/I want sevdah, the song and joy


Sarajčice, hajdemo / Sarajevo Girl, Let’s Go
Lyrics & music: Jozo Penava

(From the Bosnian lyrics)
Sarajevo girl, let’s go, dear, let’s go/To my village together, together
I’ll put you in the saddle on my horse/Aman, we’ll elope together

I have a big forest dear/And a colorful garden
In the middle of it grow cherries/Amen, sweeter than sugar

How great for you my man/When you ride on your horse
A gold bit mouthpiece/Amen, mom’s girls

Sarajevo girl, don’t fret, dear, don’t fret/Don’t say anything to anyone
I’ll bring you my dear/Amen, to where the nightingales sing

The forest is huge, dear, huge/And I’m a little lady
A snake could bite me


Oj, curice / Oh, Girl (feat. Danica Krstić)
Lyrics & music: Traditional

(From the Serbian lyrics)
My darling got drunk, and asked my grandma for my hand/Ahhh, my grandma won’t let me marry until next year
I pleaded with my grandma, said I’d really like/For her to let me marry my darling, for I love no other

Daughter you are still too young, marriage is not for you/Ahhh, wait another year and then get married
My darling has told me that he has waited long enough/Ahh, if your grandma won’t let you, run away and come with me on your own

Oh girl, by your faith, do not play with me/I may have a bad character, and beat you
Oh girl, by your faith, do not play with me/I may have a bad character, and beat you

Don’t cry little one, I’ll tell you something/I’ll tell you something when you go to sleep
Don’t cry little one, I’ll tell you something/I’ll tell you something when you go to sleep

I’ll tell you something when we go to sleep!


Na Kušlatu se mahrama vihori / On Kuslat, the Scarf Is Whirling
Lyrics & music: Neven Tunjic
Kushlat is one of the oldest (c. 1400) and most culturally significant mosques in Bosnia in Herzegovina, located near small town Zvornik. Standing mysteriously on an almost inaccessible hilltop, the mosque has over the centuries been associated with various stories and legends.

(From the Bosnian lyrics)
On Kushlat, the scarf is whirling
It’s either a scarf or a white fairy
The white fairy that dreamed dreams

Zvornik aga wondered
Is it a headscarf or a white fairy
The white fairy that was his fairy

She slept sick on the bed and dreamed
That by justice or anger of the lord
Zvornik aga was led in chains

In Zvornik, two heads fell
Whether Zvornik aga’s head or head from his darling
From his darling wearing his ring

There is no one left on Kushlat
Neither the fairy nor the aga
Nor his other darling

But the scarf
Is still whirling
And still telling about the sorrow
To all sorrows through time



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