Goran Bregovic and the Wedding & Funeral Band Take Over Toronto

by Ivana Markotic
How many former Yugoslavians can you fit into Yonge-Dundas Square? Apparently, more than 1,000. On Friday June 12th, Serbians, Bosnians, Croatians and other curious spectators occupied Yonge-Dundas Square for Day 7 of the Luminato Festival for a free performance by legendary Yugoslavian rock star Goran Bregovic and his band, The Wedding and Funeral Band.

Goran Bregovic sounds like a mouthful? Perhaps. Although the name is not immediately recognizable to North Americans, his musical influence is massive. In the 70s and 80s his rock band Bijelo Dugme (trans. White Button) formed the rock scene in Yugoslavia and went on to be a huge success in the Balkans. After the band disbanded, Bregovic went on to write musical scores for movies, and songs have appeared in Arizona Dream and Borat. On the influential end, Zach Condon of Beirut has noted Bregovic as a main influence, often performing his song “Đurđevdan” at concerts. For the past ten years, Bregovic has been touring with an orchestra-like band ranging from ten to forty musicians, under the name The Wedding and Funeral Band.

Bregovic took the Toronto stage in his signature all-white outfit, seated in-front of an ensemble of musicians including trombonists, violinists and vocalists dressed in traditional attire. The early evening started off with violins that presented the funeral aspect of the band then quickly picked up the tempo with “Gas, Gas.”

Bregovic took a moment to thank the fans in his heavily accented English, and announce that it was his first time in Toronto. The orchestra experience combined with the roots in Romani and folk spawned many concert-goers to participate in the music by bringing their own tambourines. Although the make-shift tambourine players were a little took drunk to shake on beat—and too ignorant to refrain from shaking the tambourine during slower pieces, it all added to the unique atmosphere. As the evening winded down, it was evident that Bregovic and the Wedding and Funeral Band created a sense of nostalgia amongst older crowd.

If you’ve ever had a friend from the former Yugoslavia, they’ll have you know how much we love our brandy. It’s only appropriate Bregovic’s new CD comes in two parts and is titled Alkohol: Sljivovica (Plum Brandy) and Alkohol: Chamagne. Play Sljivovica if you plan on busting a folk move or two on a dancefloor and Champagne for the mellow nights at home.

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