Press Clipping
Alkibar Junior; Sandaraa; Amira Medunjanin

Amira Medunjanin is a Bosnian singer from Sarajevo and is considered by many to be the world's finest interpreter of Sevdah, which doesn't have an easy English translation. Oddly, to get it, it's helpful to think of ancient Greek medicine. The Greeks thought there were four basic elements: air, water, fire, and earth. These corresponded to four bodily "humors:" blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Sevdah derives from the last of these, the least plentiful humor in the body, but the animating force connected with melancholy, pensiveness, pragmatism, and pessimism. If you get the idea that Medunjanin's latest CD, Damar, is layered with dark tones, you're on the mark. One reviewer called her the "Bosnian Billie Holiday." I get that, but to my ear, fado legend Amalia Rodrigues is a better match. Sevdah is a music of sorrow–like fado or a less ribald version of Greek rebetika. Why would you wish to hear such music? Because Ms. Medunjanin's vice will freeze you in your tracks; because her songs will stir things in your soul. And because you had no idea that darkness came in so many shades. On Damar she works with jazz pianist Bojan Z and guitarist Boŝko Jovíc, the first of whom sets new moods with a single note or pause, and the latter of whom is steeped flamenco fingering. This album demands more that you feel what Medunjanin sings rather than understand the lyrics. I don't know any Croatian, but even good translation software struggles with titles such as "Pjevat cemo sta nam srce zna." (My best guess: "Sing What the Heart Knows.") I can tell you, though, that it's a soulful mid-tempo song in which Medunjanin's mildly operatic quaver oozes emotion. I can also tell you that "Tvojte ociLeno mori" is a Macedonian folk song that feels as if it were sung by a sad madrigal, and that "Ah sto cemo Ljubav Kriti" ("Oh, Why Should We Hide Our Love?") is a traditional Herzegovina song that unfolds deliberately and mournfully. I can also tell you that the title track demonstrates the literal depths of Medunjanin's range, as she dips down to smoky tones reminiscent of the husk of Marlene Dietrich. Pain has seldom sounded so good.