When Guča legend Boban Marković shared leadership of his orchestra with teenage son Marko, it could have gone horribly wrong. Mutual respect ensured any tensions were avoided and it even enhanced the Boban & Marko Marković Orchestra. (Balkan Brass Battle: Intrvw Part 2)
“I formally passed the Orchestra to Marko for his 18th birthday but I am still here, and I know this is very important for Marko,’ Boban told W!LD RooSTeR. “But I did not pass the baton to Marko, we share it. He is the main composer and arranger now, but I am his guide. We love working together.”
Can pride flip into healthy competition between father and son? Boban explained the dynamic: “Not really. I admit that Marko is a better player than I am but he still has many things to learn from me, in several fields. He gives a lot to me, I give him a lot. It is fair, I think.”
Marko agrees with Boban, although he is naturally more in awe of what he can learn from his father. “It is more reverence than real competition,’ he said. “In our culture the family is the greatest value. Boban helps me in all my decisions. Sometimes it is hard but he wishes only the best for me. We perfectly share the stage, sustain each other and leave space, if needed.”
While Boban and Marko have found a recipe that works, a new battle is on the cards. The Boban & Marko Marković Orchestra is heading out across Europe to take on Romania’s Fanfare Ciocarlia in the Balkan Brass Battle, when the two best Gypsy brass bands will square up for an on-stage musical showdown (Brighton Dome 21 May; London’s Koko 22 May).
In Serbia, Boban has received almost every accolade going and has broken records at Serbia’s Guča Festival, including an unprecedented string of top marks from judges. For now he is taking a break from fronting competitions, allowing Marko to have his time in the spotlight.
“I showed enough, in Serbia as in the rest of the world, that I can compete hard and easily win. Nowadays, I prefer to show other kinds of qualities, and I leave those things to the younger generation. This Balkan Brass Battle is giving me back this sparkling feeling before a competition. We’ll see what is going to happen.”
Since 1961, the Guča Festival has grown into an exciting celebration of Balkan brass, annually attracting 600,000 raucous music fans to an event that has to be seen to be believed.
“I really cannot find the words to describe the atmosphere at Guča,’ said Boban. “Guča is everything to me. Everything started there, on that stage, during those heavy competitions. But it is a simple atmosphere, that’s why it has become so successful. Simple things are the best. No matter how complicated society becomes, we are all looking for simple things.
“The success of Guča is linked to the music, sun, food, mountains, nature, and direct contact with the orchestras. The nerves before the competition, the acclamation of the winner, of the First Trumpet, simple people, happy faces. There are bigger or maybe better organised festivals I have visited but the spontaneity of Guča I haven’t seen anywhere else.”
Marko agrees that the organised chaos of Guča is part of its attraction. “When I am there, even I cannot get it,’ he said. “Everything goes so quick. A lot of interviews, pictures with fans, people who want to talk and express their support. I understand what I experience there… let’s say… later! And I am always so sorry to leave Guca. The atmosphere is happy, music everywhere, interesting people or costumes. Please come and see for yourself!”
|Boban Markovic (Credit below)|
Widely acclaimed as Serbia’s top trumpeter, Boban Marković is credited with reinventing the traditional style, unafraid to incorporate other cultures and styles. “Yes, I do that and my son Marko dares to do much more than I do,’ he said. “We don’t just repeat what tradition sometimes imposes. We reinvent ourselves in a new hybrid style that stays on the edge between innovation and tradition.”
Marko agrees that their musical output is more often than not a collaborative effort, blending traditional styles with influences from other cultures and styles.
“It’s true,’ said Marko, “sometimes our ideas diverge. I am more into a jazzy music, a kind of roma jazz. My dad is more into the traditional, even though he has re-interpreted the tradition in his own way. When we record or rehearse, we express our ideas and somehow we find common points. Many times his ideas fit better, sometimes mine.”
Boban namechecks Bakija Bakic, Vasilis Saleas, Ivo Papasov and Louis Armstrong as his particular favourites and influences, with Shantel, Aynur and Hüsnü Senlendirici representing the new generation. “And… my son Marko, of course,’ he adds, with proud laughter.
Marko is proud of the mark he has already made on the Orchestra. “It came to me more like a need than like something planned,’ said Marko. “I feel that my music shall be mine, even though the roots remain in tradition. I hope that people will keep on liking it.”
Marko goes on to roll-call his own musical favourites: “I appreciate Shantel, Calexico, Paolo Fresu, Roy Paci, Frank London – most of them artists with whom I was lucky to collaborate – and I get crazy for Hüsnü Şenlendirici, with whom I played a concert at Babylon in Istanbul. It was my life’s dream. He is obviously one of my favourite artists and I hope to have the chance to play with him again.”
Although Boban himself started playing at a very young age, encouraged by his musician father, his experiences of the music industry didn’t initially prompt Boban to encourage the early musical dreams of his son Marko, who now co-fronts the Orchestra.
“Well, I admit that my father had a hard job with me because I preferred to run after the ball in the fields with my friends,’ said Boban. “So I did not insist on Marko being a musician very much. I even didn’t really want him to be a musician. It is a hard life, no peace and no free time. But he approached the trumpet alone and very early, at the age of five.
“When he was 12, my wife obliged me, tired and back from a tour, to listen to him rehearsing. I was astonished. I never considered that he could play so good. I immediately brought him to the studio to record something. Two years after, I started to bring him with me on tour and so he has been playing around the world for nine years already.
|Marko Markovic (Credit below)|
Marko confirms that music was his own chosen path, maybe to the initial dismay of his father. “My father was always away on tour and I was wondering if, one day, I could join him on tour,’ said Marko. “I really dreamt about it. My father would have maybe preferred a different destiny for me – a musician’s life is not that easy. But it was my choice.
“My grandfather Dragutin taught me how to play. He was also Boban’s maestro. But then my father was extremely proud of my talent and he was even my prouder when I joined the band. I was 14. I have been touring already nine years and I am not tired at all!”
Clearly, Marko opted to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and Boban’s pride in his son is evident: “Marko is great! Sometimes I can’t really believe it’s my own child doing those spectacular things on stage. Ok, it wasn’t always easy, but I had to avoid letting his head fly too high. He came to the band as a teenager, and we all know what a difficult period adolescence is in everyone’s life.”
As well as on stage, the musical collaboration between Boban and Marko can be seen in From Han to Cannes / Od Hana to Kana, a documentary about the trumpet and the musicians in love with this instrument. When the film was presented at the 50th Guca Festival. The title refers to Vladicin Han– the town in Southern Serbia where Marko was born, and the fact that many trumpet musicians from Serbia emerged from villages to achieve an international career thanks to being featured in films.
Elsewhere on the big screen, Marko even kicked off an acting career, with a close-to-home role as a Gypsy trumpet player. “Nowadays I do not have much time and I always give priority to music,’ said Marko. “But you know, if a film offer would come, I would surely consider it carefully. Who knows?!”
See Part 1 of this interview for discussion on Fanfare Ciocarlia and Goran Bregovic>Official websites:
Photography provided for promotional use only.
Credits: Michael Mann (Marko / Marko & Boban) and Izedin Amautovic (Boban)