London will come alive to the sound of music from around the world, when hundreds of international musicians take part in the BT River of Music, this weekend. Performers from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania will take to stages at iconic sites along the River Thames as part of the London 2012 Festival.
Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Battersea Park, the London Pleasure Gardens, the Royal Naval College Greenwich and the Tower of London will all stage concerts on Saturday and Sunday, with established stars such as Scissor Sisters, Beverley Knight, Jools Holland, Baaba Maal, Mariza, Hugh Masekela and Angelique Kidjo among other top names from countries competing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. With tickets costing just £3 (administration fee), thousands of people are expected to attend and discover new music.
Bosnian songbird Amira is a particularly impressive world class artist who has been making a mark on the international music scene and who will be a focal point in Trafalgar Square. Making a welcome return to London, the sevdah singer whose richly nuanced singing style has seen her dubbed ‘the Bosnian Billie Holiday’, will be performing on the Europe Stage on Saturday.
“This project is really unique and it is a great pleasure to be part of such an event,’ Amira told Wild Rooster. “For the first time all Olympic countries will have a chance to be represented by their artists at the event. It is a brilliant idea and I really do hope that the concept will be applied again in the future.”
Amira’s Band of Balkan Stars for London 2012 Festival
A special occasion deserves a special performance and Amira is not one to disappoint music fans. For this event, she has brought together a unique collection of artists to join her on stage and showcase an affirmative aspect of Balkan culture. “I am going to present a brand new project called Reka (river in her native language),’ said Amira.
“Reka is a project designed to bring together artists from ten Balkan countries: Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. I have selected artists from the remaining nine countries and they are Edris Kraja (Albania), Vladimir Karparov (Bulgaria), Zoran Scekic (Croatia), Dimitris Christidis (Greece), Stefce Stojkovski (Macedonia), Predrag Jankovic (Montenegro), Nicolas Simion (Romania), Nenad Vasilic (Serbia) and Yurdal Tokcan (Turkey).
“I had a similar collaboration with artists from some Balkan countries, and the truth is that the collaboration was inspiring in every way. This time, the team is really fantastic and we want to emphasise the positive side of our history, tradition and culture. We all have so many things in common. At the same time, music is one of the key elements that bring people together and its power eliminates all differences between people, if there are any.”
Such an ambitious project could carry its own difficulties, brining together people from traditional cultures that have not always seen life through the same lens. Thankfully, no such issues were faced by Amira and her team. “We didn’t face any such problems,’ said Amira. “That was with thanks to some good people, the artists, who are all here for one reason, which is to share and create beautiful music. I think we have a fabulous collaboration.”
Sevdah and More at BT River of Music
To mirror the exceptional band of musicians brought together by Amira, a special programme of songs has been chosen for this event. “We are going to perform songs that are familiar to all of us involved with the project,’ said Amira. “But if I tell you, it would not be a surprise anymore. It is true that we have so many ideas and so many songs to perform but we are limited with time. There are composers and arrangers among the musicians and I hope that all the things that have emerged from our collaboration will be done at some later stage. I believe that we should not miss that opportunity. All of us are very excited about the future of this project.”
So, will this unique team of musicians be seen on other stages after the BT River of Music in London? “Absolutely! I think it is fantastic project and it deserves to be heard as many people as possible,’ said Amira. “It is very important to all of us.”
Amira and her band of musicians will also be joined on stage by members of the artsdepot Roots & Wings choir, a youth group of refugees and asylum seekers living in the London Borough of Barnet, and the Tea Hodzic Trio. “Last November, we had our first performance together and the children from the choir were fabulous,’ she said. “We are all celebrating the Olympic spirit and the message of the world united in one place. That is the most important message for the young generations in all of our countries. After all, we are all doing this for our children and the children of our children.”
Amulette Tour Rolls Across Europe
Not a woman to let the grass grow under her feet, Amira is already juggling further exciting projects. “There are several projects that I am working on at the moment,’ she told Wild Rooster. “I hope that I will have enough time to do all the things that I have planned. I am planning to record an album next year, and to work more with the young talented musicians from Bosnia and Herzegovina. First though, there is continuation of the Amulette tour, which is really exciting.”
When Amira last appeared in London it was with Serbian jazz pianist Bojan Z to preview last year’s acclaimed album Amulette. “I was very pleased with the reception to our album Amulette,’ she said. “I am very grateful to Bojan, who inspired me the most, and to Nenad, Bachar, Kim, Walter, Vlatko… I am privileged to work with such great artists, and we are very proud of the Amulette Project, honestly.
The Amulette album is currently on tour, having been performed to a rapturous reception in Banja Luka last week. After further dates in Bosnia and Serbia – Mostar (31 July), Stolac (1 August) and Novi Sad (3 August) - the international tour will move on to Montenegro, Croatia and Norway. But Amira is also keen to perform the album in London again soon, she said: “Oh yes, and with great pleasure. I absolutely adore London. I will be back in November for a concert at London Jazz Festival, presenting Amulette.”