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Mak Grgic: Balkanisms

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Solo classical guitar albums are not our favourite bag but this one looked like it might be better than average and so it is. The Balkans are famed for their folk music, noted for complex rhythms; you normally hear it in electric “gypsy” folk or punk bands.

While the album consists of Mr Grgic noodling on an acoustic guitar, the more exotic melodies and the unusual time signatures make this an interesting selection. If you like guitar music in the first place, this makes it even more enjoyable.

And did we mention Led Zep? Yes, Grgic is brave enough to attempt a cover of the song that guitar shops reputedly ban (the sleeve notes called it Stairway To Paradise, Google Translate clearly not being a fan of classic 70s rock). Stairway To The Balkans (no, really) is a mix of the Zep classic and other tunes; what we know as House of the Rising Sun seems to figure; it was originally a folk tune, and must have migrated across Europe. Not cheesy at all and enjoyable — a good intro to the album.

A number of other tracks come from Miroslav Tadic, guitarist, composer and improviser, who writes “laments, dances and lullabies” inspired by traditional music of the Balkans.

Standout (Stairway aside) for us is Macedonian Girl, not a cover of some awful Ed Sheeran song but a tribute to the unmatched beauty of Macedonian women, written in 7/8. It’s delicate and lovely. In contrast, Rustemul is harder and more dance-based, although with bluesy/New Orleans feel.

Vojislav Ivanovic, born in Sarajevo, contributes Café Pieces, a good title for the album, whose songs are not too sentimental and lively enough to entertain.

Out on Naxos 8.573920.


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