Mostar Sevdah Reunion are a Bosnian institution. Emerging out of the ruins of war-torn Bosnia in 1998, tending the traditions of Bosnian (Muslim) sevdalinkes, they have been described as a kind of Bosnian Buena Vista Social Club – having played with the legendary likes of Šaban Bajramović and Esma Redžepova. Their line-up has changed continuously over the years, but their commitment to sevdah – Bosnia’s Turkish inflected blues – remains unchecked.
Still, after eleven albums and a repertoire of Bosnian love songs that has been well sifted through by the likes of Amira, Divanhana and Damir Imamović – what is there that is new which could possibly be brought to light? And why must we again hear “Moj Dilbera”, that old chestnut of Bosnian sevdalinke for the umpteenth time? The answer is Antonija Batinić and her stunning vocal style, that blends traditional Oriental melismatic singing with a kind rockier, groovier sensibility.
The best track and still fairly fresh to my jaded ears, is “Srdo Moja” a rendition of an old anonymous Bosnian traditional, for some reason often passed over by most purveyors of the genre. An incessant, tinkling, nod-along piano hook is pitched alongside Batinić’s great, soaring full-throated voice that moves above and beyond the careful graduations of the usual sevdah vocal play to become a totally catchy tune holding its own against such MSR classic tracks as “Čudnja Jada Od Mostara Grada”. I found myself listening to this earworm over and over on repeat – a classic, which at three and a half minutes is far too short.