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It is not easy to find a single word in English that can stand for the Bosnian concept of SEVDAH, although yearning perhaps comes closest. Like the Spanish duende, it carries multiple meanings – love, hopeless love, endless love, a desire that chills and fevers the lover like malaria, and like malaria can never be shaken off – but in the end, it’s a way of life, and a narrative that tells the story of itself.
Amira was born in Sarajevo at the time when the popularity of traditional music in the former Yugoslavia was at the high tide, and sevdah held a special place for her. The sevdalinke (sevdah songs) she learned from her mother were the most beautiful of songs. Her fascination with the oral tradition of Bosnia and Herzegovina led her to devote herself to creating a unique voice within sevdalinke to explore their expressive capacity to the full. She had spent years searching in vain for to find people who shared her ideas about Sevdah, and for the best way to present it.
Dubbed “Bosnia’s Billie Holiday” by music journalist and author Garth Cartwright, the comparison reflects the way in which Amira turns sevdah inside out, finding new contexts and forms within a tradition that is hundreds of years old.