Episode 10

Breaking Barriers: Jelisaveta Gluvić-Wragg's Musical Journey

Published on: 2nd July, 2023

Welcome to another episode of "An Englishman in the Balkans Podcast," where we traverse the rich cultural landscape of the Western Balkans.

In this edition, recorded outside in our garden here in the village of Čardačani, I sit down with the incredibly talented Jelisaveta Gluvić-Wragg, a classically trained violinist, who has embarked on a remarkable musical odyssey that took her abroad and brought her back home.

In this intimate conversation, Jelisaveta shares the transformative experience of studying abroad and how immersing herself in diverse cultural settings shaped her musical sensibilities.

Deciding to return to her homeland, Jelisaveta opens up about the pull of her roots and the sense of responsibility she feels toward her community. She shares her vision of contributing to the flourishing music scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina, fostering artistic growth, and inspiring the next generation of musicians.

You'll also here "village sounds" during the podcast, I hope that makes you smile?

Thank you for being a part of our podcasting community, and we look forward to bringing you more exciting content in the future.

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It's an Englishman in the Balkans podcast and today is a... I don't know, the weather's just improved for some reason. Well, basically it should be summer. We have blue sky, no fluffy clouds in the skies and we're sat in the shade. And I'm saying we, why we? I'm joined today by Jelisaveta Gluvić and Wragg and Wragg, and she's gonna tell you about why. And we're gonna find out a little bit about...


Somebody from the region, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, although born in Serbia, who's traveled around Europe and has carved a very successful career, I would say, from my research anyway, as a musician, as a violinist, or maybe a violist, maybe she's a hybrid, we'll find out about that. And we're going to find out about why.


She decided to become a musician. Why and how she managed to travel around Europe and carve herself a career. What part her faith plays in to her life and helps her. And also we're going to listen to some music that she's been part of. If anybody knows anything about the United Kingdom, there's been a radio program running for...


over 70 years and it's called Desert Island Discs. And on that, celebrities are asked to bring a number of things along with them when they get stranded on this desert island. And the only thing they normally get as a book is the Bible, but they are allowed to bring two other things. Now, I'm not gonna ask Jelisaveta to do that, but what I did do previous was I asked her to choose two pieces of music. So we're gonna be listening to those and asking her.


a few questions about that. So I think this is going to be a very interesting podcast. Sit down, get yourself a tea, a coffee, a glass of water or your favourite tipple maybe. And yeah, just sit with us and enjoy. You're listening to an Englishman in the Balkans. Who is Jelisaveta Gluvić-Wragg? Well, that is...


A good question. It makes me even think myself, who am I? Well, I'm a girl, a lady, in my 27, 28 years old. And what I can say is I'm a very optimistic person. I look life.


Not through rainbow eyes, but I try to find everything that I can see that can make my life more beautiful. I'm not saying that the world is great and amazing. No, I know that that's not a realistic picture. But my view is that in every bad thing we can learn something. And...


Also through music, through life, through everything that is surrounding us, I believe that we grow every day and we can impact other people with our ways of thinking. And if my ways of thinking are not good, that means that I'm going to do something bad to other people. I don't know if this is giving you a hint.


who I am. Well, I'm slightly Buddhist, so I can identify with having a positive outlook on life has impacts you and others in so many different ways. Yes, yes. So I can thank to my parents for upbringing because they were always teaching me. You know, when I'm...


do something wrong, okay, you did that wrong, but what can you learn from it? What can you do to change it, to become a better person? Or when something happens that I know it wasn't rightful, my mom would say, well, remember that when that happens, when you are in the situation to do the same thing, remember how you felt and don't do it, because you don't want to be a person like that, you don't want to hurt others. So, and also...


Music, because that is also conversation today, music taught me that our lives can be, yes, they can be sad, but still there is an emotion in it that can lift us up, that can inspire us to learn, that can help us to think about specific things. Because I don't know how much you heard about...


the way Baroque was. I know nothing. Okay, so if you look and research of type of thinking they had in that era, the way they wanted to work with people, they wanted to compose music that is going to help people to think more, to think deeply. And what studies did is that if you listen to


music of Baroque era or classical era, that your brain starts working more and more and you can learn faster, you can improve even physically. If you have, for example, if a person had stroke, music can help to heal that part of brain faster. This is a small example.


is hurt. If you start singing, you can still say what you wanted to say and vibrations in the brain are going to help to dissolve that blood and help person to get better faster and faster. But you can't do that with any type of music because there is music that causes our heart to work in a wrong


in a beat that goes ta, ta, ta, the first one is always stronger. And if we listen too much of the music that has like a rhythm like ta, ta, ta, that means that our heart is going to try to adapt to it. And we're going to be stressed out knowing it or not. So we can even have not planned arrhythmias and things like that.


So that's why I like music of baroque and Classicism because they push you to think deeply about things around you. Even when you're studying, for example, I was experimenting when I was at university and when I wanted to study something.


If I wanted to remember everything, I would listen to Handel. But if I wanted to learn something deeply about certain topic, I would start listening to Bach. Because he was kind of philosophical. It would make you think, oh wow, let me check in some other book.


what it says about this topic. I want to learn more about this. And you read and read and read and read. And it's like your mind's blowing up, which is very interesting because that doesn't happen every day. But the way of thinking was not to focus so much on feelings, like today everything is about feelings, but to focus on combining


mind with feelings so you get a good combination of everything. So you think straight and not let your feelings take you. Oh, I'm going to do this just because I feel it that way. And not think, is that really good for me? Is that going to improve my life? Is it going to hurt others? No. When you let your feelings lead you, you...


don't think about anyone else besides you, which is a bit selfish. Definitely. You were born in Serbia, but then you spent a lot of time in Bosnia Herzegovina before moving on. So what has been your journey so far from when you when you were born in Serbia? How is it that you've managed to change places where you've lived and countries?


to arrive back.


I can thank my parents for that because they were moving a lot. So I kind of learned to adapt very fast to a new area where we lived. I changed three primary schools. High schools I didn't change, I was only in one. And then I started university. I got the opportunity to study in Italy. I got a scholarship and I was there for one year. And when I...


finished my university, I got a game scholarship to move to England. That was a whole story for you to tell. Because yes, I mentioned my parents moving a lot. My dad used to work as a pastor. So every few years he would move into a new area. And that helped me to meet a lot of new people. And


helped me grow up as an extrovert, I can say. So I was grasping when I grew up to meet even more, to learn more about other cultures. Because you can see everything on the TV, on media, but it's not that compared, it's not even close to when you go into that country, when you meet people, when you try to talk to them. That is completely different experience. You know.


And then if you play their music, you play it differently because now you understand them. You kind of lived through a bit of that, what they're living through every day. And the last country where I was, was England. And that is a country where Handel spent a lot of his life. It was amazing because...


The culture of listening to classical music is still very high there. People still love to go to their concerts. I'm not saying that that is not happening in Bosnia. I can see that it's getting better. But in England it's still on a higher level. People love to go to hear someone, to support someone. And


That is what attracted me a lot. I met a lot of musicians there and they were very happy to accept me immediately, which was a surprise for me because here I am for the first time in a foreign country. I barely speak the language. I mean, I could speak, but still, it wasn't great. But...


Because I was playing violin and viola, when they heard they said, come on, let's play together. And through music, we forged a bond. And then I got some students there and I was playing more and meeting more people. And...


It's really special. Special memory for me. All that what happened.


eo of you playing, I think in:


back then? Since that was in:


at the end of May or June, something like that. That is an interesting story because each of us are from different country. Pianist was from Japan, first violin from Moldova, second violin from Russia and a cellist. She's kind of from, she's from Russia, but I think that she had some roots in Ukraine. And here I am from Bosnia.


So they heard from me from someone else and they said, we heard that you're playing viola, we need a viola, would you play with us? And I was like, yes, sure. And what made us so connected is that when we would organise a rehearsal, we would take a whole day for it. We would spend whole day and we would have time to gather over food, we would talk a lot, we would.


connect through our stories, even though I was the youngest one. Some of them, they already had children of my age and all that. We connected in such a level that I felt like they became my family. I'm still in touch with them and I still plan on playing with them. And I hope one day they will come to Bosnia. This is mine actually.


I would really like to organise that. And one of them, they organised that concert in South Hill Park and it was a really lovely evening there. It was with all the windows open so people outside could hear us and it's just so special. 


In our nearest city of Banja Luka, there is the Banski Dvor, which is a now building that hosts cultural events and some say has got the best acoustics in the region, definitely within the city. And it is a very, very special place to go. But without being negative at all, the...


You know, when I was watching that video of you at South Hill Park, I remember going to concerts like that and the atmosphere is nothing that I would feel in the Banski Dvor. Yes, you have accomplished musicians playing. The acoustics, yes, are great. But there is a vibe, if I can use that modern word, there's a vibe within the audience where here it's very...


stilted, it's very disciplined, it's very constrained, whereas, and you can see everybody's bodies are very tense as if they're expected to be like this because it's classical music, whereas in the United Kingdom I think it's a lot more relaxed and people have a different view about that. Did you experience that? Yes. In one of the videos I sent you, it was basically


The concert was done, Christmas concert in the house of one of our ladies, cellist, and that was even more special concert for me than South Hill Park one because the audience connected with us, they started singing with us. And I've never felt such a connection where audience and players are becoming one.


As you said, it's a completely different experience. I used to play a few concerts with orchestra and all that in Banski Dvor. But this was special because it was like a house atmosphere, something that you share with your closest ones. And I really understand what... I'm so glad that you felt it, even though it was through a YouTube video. It was... It's definitely different.


and I would like if something like that would start happening in Bosnia and I hope we might get to it because I have two friends that I started to play with recently, clarinet guy, his name is Aleksandar and my friend Milana, she plays the piano and I hope we're going to achieve


the same thing we felt there, that I felt there. Because when you share music in such a way with others, it's not anymore about you. It's not about being a soloist. It's about everyone sharing the same thing. And that is sometimes that I find faulty with soloists.


like solo players, because it's about them showing how virtuous they are, how well they can play and all that. But it's not only about that. It's about making a community where everyone can add something, where everyone can enjoy, where everyone can help each other. And


With chamber music you can get that more often than with just solo music. You're talking about chamber music and one of the things that I've always felt with musicians is how they express themselves through their music, right? If you look at rock and roll, which is a whole world away from classical music, but with them it's always been...


the expression of the guitar solo, the expression of the drum solo, or within a group atmosphere, each person sort of like does their own thing. The band Queen with the late Freddie Mercury, even he was a virtuoso because of his, he would demonstrate his passion and his feelings through his voice. But a lot of these artists as well bring their own cultural inferences.


into it. So when you look back, for example, at Freddie Mercury, he wasn't born a Brit, and he had his own influences that he brings into it. Are you able, you know, coming from the Western Balkans, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, is there any way that when you play that you feel that I have this specific thing that I have a feeling about this, and I think I can just influence it a little bit? Is that at all possible?


Or is it the rigid discipline of the sheet music in front of you? It's definitely possible because when composers wrote that music, they didn't write it just for you to follow it. They didn't write everything. If you follow the sheet, you can see the phrases. But it's up to you to show it to everyone. You're supposed to feel it because if you don't feel it, how are the people in audience hear it? You're supposed to.


understand it. You're supposed to go so deep into it so you can express it to someone. My professor of violin, Violetta Smilovic-Ward, she's an excellent professor. She used to say when you play violin, you have to play it in such a way that people can say that you're hungry.


or that they can say that you're thirsty. You have to say it in such a way that people can understand what you're saying. I had a situation when I was near graduation and my engagement was broken. I didn't share it with anyone, literally anyone. And when I was playing to one of my professors, he said, you know, Jelisaveta, you're playing like you broke up with your fiance. Really? Yes.


and my tears just started falling down. I was in shock, but I know that that is possible. It's possible to share that emotion that you have inside. And one of the mosque class I was at, because he was talking about Bach and the way he was composing, and he said something like, if you're looking at originals, he didn't write down.


what type of dynamic is going to be here, if there is going to be crescendo or decrescendo, if it's going to be louder or, oh, if it's going to be like so emotional or not. No, he didn't write it down, why? Because he expected that person that is going to play it knows what to do because it's so logical. But today, if you look some new modern


transcriptions and all that, every single person added, oh, you have to do this here, you have to do this there, you have to add this here, like we became robots when we were just supposed to understand it, read it. It's like reading a book. When you are reading a book, no one has to tell you you have to read it in such a way. No, because in your mind, when you read it, you can hear it.


You can imagine those descriptions that were written. You can imagine how bright the sun is. You can imagine the breeze. You can imagine all those things. It's the same with music, but some people think that the main point is just to show off, no.


The main point is to tell the story so people can experience what the composer wanted everyone to experience. When you're talking about storytelling in a musical way, and I'm not that, you know, worldly wise in the classical world, but I remember there was a rather unusual violinist, Nigel Kennedy, who could play...


as far as I was aware, exceedingly good classical music, but then would show up at a folk concert or at a rock concert or whatever, and he was able to fuse himself with his classical training and his high standard of performance. He could fuse himself into playing folk music.


especially Gaelic folk music, Irish and Scottish folk music, he would do that. And he could even play with bands back in the day such as Led Zeppelin who were like old heavy rockers. He was able to do that. Is that a skill that a violinist has to learn or is it, in my perception I think it is,


Is this the ultimate way of freelancing of expression? I'll say freelancing, it's a bad phrase to use, I know, but is that the ultimate in expression? Would you be able to do that if you were in the mood and somebody said, for example, let's talk about Laktaši, they have a group called Trag, and there's another one in Doboj called Iva that focuses on traditional music, the music of the area. I know that they have a violinist there, or maybe one or two, but...


Is that a sort of situation where you as a classically trained person could come in and say, I know these songs, they're from my culture and I can put my everything that I've learned over all these years into that? Yes. So what my experience is that everything depends on what type of education you had. I was lucky because I came from a music


background, music family background, because my mom, she's a musician, my grandma was a musician, and my great-granddad was a musician, so I'm basically a fourth generation. So music is in my genes. Anyway, my mom started teaching us about music, about it's everything comes from singing. If you can sing it, you can play it. But if...


A child was just focused on reading and following the examples. They wouldn't be able to just play something what they hear somewhere, like folk music or any of that. But if you had a background where you learn to listen to music, to sing it, where it's natural to you just to take a violin and play whatever someone say, Oh, can you


play this and they whistle a melody, you can do it. And that should be a natural because there is a method of teaching called Suzuki method based on a Japanese musician. He was even living a very, very long life over a hundred years, I believe. And his method was about teaching a kid to play with method of mother tongue.


When a child is, when a baby is in the stomach, she's listening to her parents and she can recognise their voices, the way their melody of their voices is going up or down. She knows when they're upset or not. And if a baby in stomach listens to specific music that parents are playing, it's becoming so natural to her. And then...


The idea is when the baby is out to continue playing the music that you want your child to play. And then when she or he is two or three years old, the parent brings an instrument that the child is going to play and then starts playing on it. It doesn't have to be perfect. Parents usually can learn a few melodies because if you want to inspire your child, you do it yourself because they want to copy you. And if you want to be...


good examples you try to do it the best you can and then child children starts oh daddy mommy can I can I do it and then they remember that melody that they used to listen through their life and they don't have to look for music sheet to know what is there it's it's written in them so they can play it and they find it very easily and only when they're


mature enough they start learning music notes. Like in school you don't have to learn letters when you're a baby to know how to speak. You speak because it's natural to you because that's how parents taught you. So if you're taught in such a way I'm not saying that we have here music math of Suzuki's but that doesn't mean that we don't have children who is actually able to


play it in such a way to play by ear. We have a lot of young people who can do that very well. Unfortunately, a lot of children who would be able to do the same are depraved of it because of the way their professors or parents think. They are not aware of this yet. I was, we'll just digress slightly from music and just talk about tennis for the moment. I particularly,


identify with a Russian tennis player called Andrei Rublev. And in one of his interviews, he was talking about the development of the next generation of tennis players. And he said that a tennis player, somebody that will become a good tennis player, an exceptional tennis player, will be a young person who seeks tennis.


in some way, either by picking up a racket or hitting a ball. And that person may well succeed whereas adequate tennis players are those who have been told by their parents you will play tennis and you're going to go and do a course and you're going to do that. And they hound this child into becoming a tennis player. In other words, maybe living their life through their child. Yeah.


There is some of that within music as well. Yes. Oh, there is a lot of it. And that is a bit sad because if children had opportunity to choose for themselves, maybe they would have chosen that path. But because parents push them in that direction, then they are not so keen on giving 100% of themselves in it. But those who really wanted to learn for themselves.


I've even came to cases where the professors, they used to tell them, you know, you're not for this, you're not talented for it. But they were putting their 200% in it, and they became wonderful musicians just because they wanted it. Just because they wanted it.


that is passed down, I mean, we're talking science now. Do you think it's possible that it's been passed down genetically? I do. I do. I believe that whatever we do in our lives, it's going to be passed out because, oh, one of the examples, our negative characteristics. Quite often I hear from my parents, oh no, you inherited...


what I didn't want you to inherit, like, by bad characteristics. And then she tells, if you want, if you're going to have children, please change that before you get your children, because they are going to inherit the same thing. So if we can inherit, like, bad habits and all that from our parents, why we can't inherit good things like music, musical earring or love for music? I do believe that that impacted me because


My great grandfather, he used to be a violinist and accordionist. And I know that he used to play all over the place from Sarajevo, Ljubljana, Belgrade, everywhere. And he loved it. And I know before he was unfortunately killed during the Second World War, he told to my great grandma, please make sure that you buy to our daughter a piano.


I wanted her to play and she got it and she used to play flute and piano and then my mom, even though she wanted to maybe do something else in one point, but she became a very good teacher. Because she became a good teacher, she inspired me to want to become a good teacher, to spread the knowledge and to spread the love for music. So...


I'm sure that there is something in it. There is, there is.


something that we can use but obviously it's up to the person if they're going to use that what they've inherited. How does the family and the wider family feel you know that you've you left them you went to Italy then you ended up in the United Kingdom obviously they're very happy that you're back but how do they feel now because come on you are successful I mean you've exceeded


young people from this area where we both live in who are just starting on their journey, they must probably have got no idea that they could ever do what you've done, that they could replicate what you've done. Well, I can say that they were very supportive and they were always inspiring me to do more. What I was lucky is that I had family wherever I went.


I think that that's what helped them to be relaxed. I know that my mom, I can't say that she was unhappy. I know that she was a bit upset that I'm going so far, that she can't just take her car and come the next day to help me or something like that. But I knew that she wanted me to also be happy to achieve what they wanted to achieve. So in Italy, I also had my aunts and uncles and cousins.


in England as well and they all, all my life were very supportive. When I needed a new instrument, they were all, don't worry, were going to happy. When I needed to go for concerts, they were all driving me, they were all showing for my concerts, they were all there when I needed them. And I can't say that I would do any of this if I didn't have them. If I didn't have them.


to push me when I was feeling down, to say, you can do it. Or when they were listening to music I was playing or pieces and then giving me even their own advice. I'm lucky to have so many members of my family that have a good musical ear. And I also am happy, I'm also very happy to see that I inspired my younger cousins to play the same. My...


older brother, he used to play clarinet, but he didn't follow that route. My younger one, he's playing guitar, but he also didn't follow the same route. But my, one of my cousins, she's at university at Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, she's playing piano very well. Her younger sister playing violin. Also another cousin of ours, he's playing violin. So I can see that if one person.


goes on one roof and everyone can see that something is happening they would be inspired to do the same they say oh if that person could do it I can do it as well. How do they feel when have they well I'm going to assume you shouldn't assume for a whole number of reasons but one have you played with with with the younger members of your family and if so how do they react I mean you know there they are.


I know, starting playing what instruments they are, and there you are, a very accomplished musician. Do they feel a little bit uncomfortable? Well, honestly? I don't think so. I was never type of person that is thinking of myself, oh, I'm higher from them, I'm much better now. Because I learned also through the Suzuki method that in order for everyone to grow,


you have to respect them. And they can do in that level what they can do. So if you play with them, they can even grow better. I didn't play with the youngest ones yet, but with that cousin Tamara, who has the same name as your wife, she was playing also flute. So when we were younger, we used to go to play on streets in Italy.


And that was a very valuable experience because we shared something. It was kind of a fear of performing outside. We know you don't know if someone is going to listen to you or not, if you're going to make a mistake, but that gave us even more stronger bond. We could understand each other. And I believe that playing with each other helps us to.


do better and better. In England, I think the word for street performers are buskers. Yes, I couldn't remember the word. So you've actually been a busker. Yes. And you say that being a busker is important to break that fear of performance. Oh, of course. The first time I did it was when I was 17 or 18 years old. I did it on my own. Actually, that was again with help of my family.


All my family went with me outside in the street of Trieste. I was in the main square. It was, I think, 10 or 11 p.m. And they were like, don't worry, we're going to be there with you. I was a bit embarrassed. But when I started playing, the embarrassment left. And I can say that that helped me to play because when you see people coming and dancing and all that, it kind of...


bricks something in you. I would be terrified if it was me. Well it was terrifying in the beginning. I can also say I have a friend he's a violinist he's finishing maybe he already finished studying of baroque violin in Graz. He was the first person actually I played with on the streets after I was soloist and that was


magnificent experience. We prepared, we prepared a repertoire and we used to go every day, we were experimenting which time in the day is the best. And it was so spontaneous. We learned to listen to each other even more. We learned almost by heart the pieces that we were playing together and


We had funny experiences where a drunk guy comes and starts directing us and then he says, no, you're not doing it well. And it was funny. Or, well, we used to, there was one piece that was in a difficult key and we tried playing, but I lost myself in music sheet. I couldn't find myself and he lost himself. And in the middle of the street, we busted.


in love. We couldn't stop. And in that moment a lady is coming saying bravo and she gave us money which made us laugh even more. But people could sense that we were relaxed and that we were enjoying what we were doing. And even though I was in Italy at that time and he was in Graz, once when he came he said, I'm arriving today.


It was a Friday, I'm arriving today, do you want to play tonight? And I was like, yes, let's do it. And we went and even the captain of a ship that was passing nearby, he asked us, do you guys have a CD? And it's just a perfect experience. Those memories I cherish very dearly. You're such a positive person and you mentioned at the start about having


positivity and positivity has such benefits in life. When I was reading up about you, you attribute a lot of this positivity to your faith. So faith does play an important part in your life. Yes. Since I was a little girl, I was taught, of course, about God. But my first experience with God was when I was praying.


to get a little brother. And I was praying for some time and my parents, they only let us know when my mom was five months pregnant because she was 40 years old and she didn't know if they're going to manage to carry it till the term. And I remember still that day when she came and told us we're having a baby. And that moment I had


such a connection to God, I said God responded to my prayer. He knew what I really wanted. I deeply wanted to have a baby. I didn't, I wanted to have a sister, but it's still okay. And through my life, whenever I was in certain situation where I didn't know how to deal with it, I knew that I can count on God. I knew that I can.


tell him what I'm feeling, what I'm struggling with. I knew that he can always hear me and that was always making things easier. Plus, whenever I was planning to do something in my way and it didn't happen and it happened in his way, I realised it was better. When I wanted to move to Sarajevo to do my last two years of university there with...


different violin professor because she was helping me achieve what they wanted. It didn't happen. It was a difficult situation. It was also because, you know, the situation in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, a bit of competitive and all that. But in that moment, when I found out that I can't go to Sarajevo and I was very upset, in that moment, I got a phone call. Do you want a one-year scholarship in Italy? And I was like...


Wow, I didn't plan that, but I like the idea. And there I met more people. My friend, Kristina Ivanovic, I don't know if you heard of her. She's a very, very good violin player and very good singer. She's still in Italy. She married there and stayed there. And she has a wonderful career, I just had to mention. Anyway.


I spent great time there with her. We were playing with different chamber ensembles, meeting many new people and that also helped become a better musician because everyone wanted to play. It wasn't like quite often when I was at university in Banja Luka, I had the feeling that people were practicing to get a grade. Just to do it.


But when we left there and we went there to play, we wanted to play. That was the only reason. And if grades came great, that was cool. That was amazing. But we were mostly playing and enjoying it. We had one concert from Hollywood to Beethoven. And that was also amazing concert. It was symphonic orchestra. And we played like pirates.


of Caribbean and all those famous music themes and then at the end, Beethoven, it was an amazing concert. But what were we doing? We were playing. We were enjoying it. So I believe that God wanted me to experience that. He wanted me to grow up in a way to know that it doesn't have to be just in the box. There is a world behind.


outside of the box. And then, when I was last year of my university, I was engaged and I thought, okay, my life is going in that direction. I'm going to get married, have children and all that. But it wasn't exactly like that. Things were out of my hand and I was quite disappointed. And that was the moment where I kind of lost my positivity.


And in that moment, God comes again because I went to England, I got my visa in a very short time, I got scholarship that I didn't expect to get. And there I met three girls that became my best friends. That helped me to become even more who I am today. And I don't think that that is just some...


type of luck. And also, I met my husband. Yes, yes. Who is now like a komšir, like a neighbour. Yes, really. Just to digress slightly, how does Ashley feel about, I mean, I should ask him, right, but he's not here. How does he feel about being another Englishman in the Balkans? For me, it's been an amazing ride.


and I've enjoyed every single second of it, literally. How does, you know, being somebody from South Africa via the UK to Bosnia and Herzegovina, how does he react to things? Well, I can definitely say that it was an interesting experience from him from the beginning. What is a good thing is that because he knows Afrikaans, learning Serbian is not as difficult because he can pronounce very well words.


what freedom he gets here. I believe that he became more free in a way. He can do whatever he wants in his own garden. He can, I think that he became more open and he likes the nature. Whenever I mention like, oh, we could go for holidays there, here, he said, no, I would rather explore the whole Bosnia.


to see what they're offering because I can see that there is so much on Google Maps that we didn't explore. It is the most amazing place. Yes, of course there are some sites everywhere, but we don't have to mention them now. No, we don't. I tell you what I'd like to mention though, you were talking about Beethoven just now and as soon as you said it, the word association in my head.


ack from, I believe, the late:


not as pop music, but as classical music. Do you see the connection of what that person said to me? Well, hmm. I mean, when Beethoven did actually play at the time, that was pretty popular for his era, wasn't it? Yes, yes. I would say that, yes, there is a place for them. I wouldn't say that that is classical, and maybe classics, that is a bit different term.


Yes, it has a big and important role in our music. We can see where it came from and how it grew and all that. I do believe that that is a part of culture that people now when they hear, oh, I know this, this is classic. This is good music compared to nowadays. Most music today is not great anymore.


I would say. It's getting worse apparently. You can make music using chat GPT now, but we won't talk about that. Yes. But there is music called modern classical music. And that is for mostly movie music and all that music that is still kind of classical, but it's modern. It's not like Baroque, Romanticism, Classicism and all that. So


I wouldn't say that Beatles are modern classical music. They're still in their own area, but still classic. One of my most favourite types of music now, recently, has been discovering Sevdelinka, which is the traditional music of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a classically trained musician...


coming from Bosnia, that's a governor. How do you feel, and we were talking about cultural emotions earlier, how do you feel when you hear that? For example, I'm from a completely different cultural background, yeah, I really am. And when I found, after many years that there was a song,


y Jones. He played it here in:


And the first time I heard it, my whole body was just covered in goosebumps. So as somebody that comes from the country, you know, it's your culture, it's in your genes, you know, you can play Handel, you can play Bach, you can... And when you hear this, do you still get goosebumps as well? Of course.


I'm so sorry.


That is traditional music that is also in our genes. When we know that something was passed through generations and generations, we can recognise that. We can recognise that. And I definitely do get, I can't say, I get basically a pain, but in a good way when I hear something like that, especially...


the good, the good Sevdalinka and traditional music, not like turbo folk plays now, far, far, far away from me, but like traditional that is...


something's very deep inside of me because it's not only about words. Words also make you think and make you recognise what other person experienced when they wrote or sang that music, but also the melody. It contributes to each other. Even my husband, when he listens to some of our traditional songs, he's like, oh wow, we don't have this.


music. The first one was from:


What's so special about it?


My mom had a VHS cassette from that concert. I believe that she recorded it or my grandma recorded it in their own home. And when I was three, I think that when I was three, four, five years old, I used to listen to that tape quite often and I became emotionally attached to that.


piece to two of them. They used to play that piece in many other concerts and I listened to those recordings but this one, like I mentioned a little bit before, when you listen to a good Sevdalinka there is something that pinches you in your heart. That is the feeling I get from there because I fell in love with that piece and I fell in love with two of them. Pellman had a very


interesting background. He had cerebral paralysis when he was a little boy, but what my mom used to tell me, his parents didn't tell him, oh you're sick, you can do whatever you want, we don't care. No, they pushed him to play his violin, to learn and he learned to express feelings and he became a wonderful musician and Zukerman as well and both of them


And what I learned through years is that Jews, because of the music they have in their genes, they know very well to express what the musical piece wanted to say.


And I guess this is an interesting thing. I don't know if you heard of it, but the Bible, the first part, Old Testament and Torah was written as music. Yes. I was always wondering, how come that young children?


and when it was written in the Bible, and how come they all knew the Bible Torah by heart? I was like, that's impossible because their parents used to sing them Torah before they were going to bed. It was nurtured in their bodies, they learned it by heart. That's why was it that was so easy. So they were always...


musically inclined. And I learned about that when I was my first year of university. We had to do some essays about old type of music like Greek and all that. For some reason I decided to research music of the Bible and that's where I found out about that. And one lady, she even decoded the music of the Bible.


and on YouTube you can find some... I've forgotten the moment what is her name. You can find how it sounds. But for me that explains a lot why there is so many good musicians in their culture. Wow. Your second is concerto number six in D major by Giuseppe Scarlatti. Yes. But the thing is...


He lived from 1685 to 1757. That's a huge amount of time ago. What's so special about Concerto No. 6?


It was hard to choose the second piece because I like so many music pieces from all over the place. But that one I've chosen, I was listening to a German classical radio for years because I liked when they put it online, they used to put next to their radio who wrote it, what is the name of the piece, who was the performer.


and all that and I used to love that and there was that piece that I heard and yes it's from Baroque


There is a moment when the instruments are singing to each other and there is again that pinch that I have in my heart because it lifts you up so much like you're in heaven you close your eyes and you think wow I'm not down here I'm somewhere else and that was the piece that


I've chosen when I was getting married to enter in. Usually people choose Pachelbel like Canon in D and all that. Typical, but I wanted to have something else. And that was the music that I've chosen for entrance. And that's why it holds special place in my heart.


Well, we've been nearly talking for an hour. Can you believe that? Two things I'd like to ask you now.


and especially for people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is this. What would your advice be to anyone thinking of becoming a professional musician in 2023? Well, I would say not to focus on negative sides, even when people talk negatively or when they say, just don't bother to go forward, because


After every storm there is sun, there is a rainbow, there is a hope. I would say that they should still go forward, learn and learn and learn. Because through knowledge you gain a lot. Through reading, through listening and also talking to people who had experience in life.


That helps a lot. And I know that quite often I believe that it's because this area was in the war more than 20 years ago. Now it's going to be almost 30. Now actually it's 30. I haven't realiSed how time flies. But unfortunately we were affected. And...


People don't see sometimes when they see things that it's going to affect a young soul who didn't experience that, what was going on. But they should try to look more for something else. To look where they can get what their soul needs. Because there are places and there is always something that you're going to learn.


And if you're looking for the truth or you're looking for...


something your soul needs, you will get it if you really want it. You will get it. Because I know that we're not all from the same beliefs, and we're not coming from the same beliefs, but I believe that God is looking after everyone. And He doesn't leave us alone. He doesn't leave us on the side to suffer. We don't need to suffer because He wanted to.


us to enjoy. I believe that he was the one to give us that special music bond. He created us to enjoy the nature. He created us to enjoy everything around us. And we should use it. We shouldn't leave it to waste. That would be a shame when there is so much in this world.


that we can learn from. So if you want to be a musician, just take that piece of advice and just go for it. I know people will say that's easier said than done, but until you do something, you're never gonna know. You have to take a leap of faith. Yes, you have to take a leap of faith. Never a truer word said. Finally, what's next then for Jelisaveta? Well, I have many dreams.


Unfortunately, last year too, I wasn't able to achieve them. I had to put them on hold because there was a lot of paperwork to deal with. But I would like to play with my friends to focus more on chamber music and to try to inspire youth to look into history, to look why.


classical music was so important, what it wants to teach us, what we can learn, because we can become, again, better people. And if ever possible, I would like to have my own school in which I could implement all those small things that I heard here, there, or learned, or read, where, like Suzuki was saying...


You need to teach them to be good people, not great musicians, but good people. Because good person can be whatever they want and they can play whatever they want. It's not so focusing on becoming the most famous person in the world that plays like Nigel Kennedy or any of those famous musicians. But


to be first a good person in your area and to help youth to do the same. What I liked at Suzuki is that when he was teaching kids to play violin, he used to bring kids all ages in one room. They used to play the same piece all together because what was the point? That young ones learn to respect.


the elders and to try to become as them and to, for older ones, to learn to be patient and not to think of themselves as above them, but to help them achieve what they achieved.

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About the Podcast

An Englishman in the Balkans
Find out more about Bosnia and Herzegovina
Encouraging people to find out more about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Welcome to "An Englishman in the Balkans" podcast, hosted by David Pejčinović-Bailey.
In this podcast, you'll get a unique look at life in Bosnia and Herzegovina through the eyes of an immigrant. Each episode, David shares his experiences living in this often misunderstood country, and introduces you to some of the interesting people he's met along the way.
From exploring the rich culture and history, to discussing the challenges and joys of immigrating to a new country, this podcast offers a thoughtful and engaging look at life in the Balkans.
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About your host

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David Pejčinović-Bailey

I am a podcaster, living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and sharing my experiences of living in this often misunderstood country.