Interview with Darko Knežević & Iva Ivanisevic: The Blues deeply corresponds to the sensibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Video, Photos


Interview with 4 Hombres & Flowery (Darko Knežević & Iva Ivanisevic), a Bosnia/Herzegovina based Blues Rock band.

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Darko: My first contact with rock and blues culture was at the end of elementary school and it immediately took me over, but I have a feeling that it was always in me. After it was awakened, it would never sleep again in me. I really found myself in this blues and rock culture. Not only in the musical sense, but also in my view of the world, because tolerance for differences of all kinds is important, and these differences make us all better and we can learn and grow through those experiences.

Iva: Rock and blues are the best chroniclers and testimonials of time. During the pandemic, music brought us together and connected us in many ways. Instead of constantly worrying while being isolated, we devoted ourselves to making music, so for us this was the most musically rich period. Doesn’t that say how important music is? I grew up in a family where I always expressed myself freely and creatively while respecting traditional values and spirituality. Music was indispensable and was as important as breathing for us. It was the most authentic way of expression. In the most difficult situations, like when lightning struck our house in the middle of the night, after we realized we were all fine and there was nothing we could do until morning, my mom made me, and my three sisters take instruments and play and sing together. It’s the culture I know and nurture in my mini cosmos, regardless of the trends. “Something got a hold of me…”

How do you describe 4 Hombres & Flowery sound, music philosophy and songbook?

Darko: The sound of 4 Hombres & Flowery is a combination of classic blues, rock, some elements of hard rock, and influences of music from these areas (BiH). The philosophy of the band is very simple: love, peace and true blues from the heart. Our range of repertoire goes from classic 12-bar blues to more modern blues, and we are increasingly filling it with original songs because we think that the author’s approach is the most important in the creative sense. We enjoy composing and arranging our songs the most. After many years of playing music, everything finally came together and brought all of us together as well… 4 Hombres and our “Flower” into one inseparable whole.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Darko: There are a lot of interesting things about us, because some members of the band have been playing together for about 30 years. From high school gigs to original recordings and album releases. I remember back in 1992, when we were recording our first demo, in the rock band Helios at the time, we had to record some background vocals, but we didn’t know how to compose basic harmonies, but when we mastered it, we were happy as kids. Afterwards, there were a lot of gigs…big ones and small ones. For me, the most important and my favorite is the 3rd Thrill blues festival 2019 in Trilj (Croatia), which was also a springboard for further work.

Iva: Given that most of us in the band have known each other or played together for almost 15 years, we could write a book of all of our adventures. I would point out the 3rd Thrill blues festival in Trilj, which was a turning point for 4 Hombres. As we live in three different cities, two different countries, Budo (drummer) and I met on the same day when we played together for the first time at the that blues festival. From the first bar, it was clear that there was a wonderful chemistry between all of us, as if we were playing together and knew each other for years and years. Since then, no rehearsal has gone without a good barbecue.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Darko: What I miss the most is the true approach to music, which is present in music of the ’70s, ’80s, and even part of the ’90s. The band’s approach to music itself was globally valued, and bands created their own songs. Today’s approach seems so artificial, especially when it goes through various instant shows. I hope that will change in the future. After many years of creating music, we have no fear because we sincerely follow our vision.

Iva: I miss the spontaneity and simplicity that once existed in music. No overproduction. I fear how this global crisis will affect musical events, border crossings and finances. I long and hope to travel and have the freedom to create and move again.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Bosnia/Herzegovina. Which is the most interesting period in local scene?

Darko: Music created in Bosnia and Hercegovina can offer a lot to the field of blues, because of our difficult history. The original Bosnian music is sevdah, which in my opinion has somany similarities with the blues. We have the Mostar Blues Festival, where local blues bands are given the opportunity to show off with big blues bands.
Iva: The Blues deeply corresponds to the sensibility of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because it can be associated with a genre called sevdah. The word sevdah comes from the Arabic word sawda which means black bile, and we can also translate it as lament. Sevdah is also called Bosnian blues. The difference is that the blues is rebellious and defiant, and sevdaha expresses sadness and injustice, but with the goal of calming the inner-world of the singer and the audience. This influence can be seen in the music of many bands that have played and are playing still in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the poetry that even American poets and critics have translated into English. Fortunately, there are many blues musicians, and the Mostar rock and blues festival is an example of that, which brings together domestic and foreign blues bands at a high level. This fact really illustrates the great interest of the audience and performers in this genre. I hope the best is yet to come.

What is the impact of Blues n’ Rock on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Darko: I think that there is a great influence, although in the media a lot of times trivial music stands out, but fortunately it is much easier today to get quality music via the Internet. I would love it if blues and rock would make an impact on younger generations, like great artists like Roger Waters and John Lennon had on us.

Iva: I think the impact of blues and rock on socio-cultural occasions is exclusively positive. Generations and generations continue to grow and form through that influence, which means reducing exclusivity and prejudice. This is especially important for the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment in which we live and operate. Nothing connects the world like music. How else would this conversation have happened!? Is it? I am a supporter of art therapy that includes music and can have a healing effect in these crazy times. That’s why we sing in our songs: ”Everything will be good”.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Iva: Just like James Brown said, it’s nothing without a woman or a girl. I can’t be anything but a woman in the world. In the area of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a certain pressure on women and their involvement in music with regard to age, appearance and choice of music. It would be nice if women would connect more and support each other in their diversity and sensibility. I am lucky to have four talented men by my side who are strong enough for me to fly next to them.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Darko: Any big concert from the late ’60s or’ 70s, to feel that true rock’n’roll spirit.

Iva: The answer is simple. I would go home. In my town of Livno, which stands on three defiant rivers, surrounded by breathtaking nature, which brings you peace in the golden twilight, while fascinating you with the power of wild horses and simultaneously feeds you the best cheese. I’m a kid there and that feeds me.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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