Teofilovic Brothers: Songs Belong to Those Who Sing Them Better
That healing with music cannot be choreographed. I'm not someone that accepts setups, but I do accept what is happening in the given moment. Just like art, it is something that is created in the moment. That is how we choose the songs for our repertoire on this tour to promote this album. The three planned concerts all had three different repertoires. But what will remain among the three of us, and what people will feel is happening is empathy. And the energy that comes back to us in those momentsI can only describe it as catharsis. When Miroslav hits a string, my voice is in a state of convulsion, and I feel I'm about to cry. In that moment, he is taking us into his own emotional world that you simultaneously transmit to your audiences. It is something I haven't experienced very often. He is literally carrying us over and playing with our voices.
AAJ: Vidarica is a collection of songs from various regions of the Balkans and it is a meeting point for the musicians' different tastes. How did you make the choice which songs to include here?
Radiša Teofilovic: Miroslav knew some of the songs that we perform and asked us whether we knew something similar to that. He liked our suggestions. Even today we have a number of songs from Dalmatia, but Miroslav chose two songs that he had performed as instrumental variants. He suggested we listen and approach the songs in our own way. There weren't any particular suggestions here. He didn't aim to lighten the load for himself through the choice of songs but to fit himself into our harmonies. That's the essence of the approach here. Miroslav is a listener. For instance, we didn't know the song "Stojne, sine Stojane" before. That's a song that he did for Lulka (Cradle, Third Ear Music, 2002), the record with the singer Vanja Lazarova, and he sent us a version of that song from US, sung by a group The Singers from Ohrid. He suggested we listen to the song and we practiced that one exclusively for a month. You repeat the text over and over until you arrive at a point where you don't think about the next verse. Such is the nature of this profession. That is why we work every day.
There was a huge interaction between us, and trust, to listen to Miroslav's suggestions which songs are most appropriate. Also, he had a kind of a vision about the playlist. There was a song from Eastern Serbia that we changed our minds about, for some reason. And then we thought of "Mome Stoe." I remember we sang that song for the first time in Ohrid at the Balcan Square festival. It was an incredible experience. That was the best concert we have ever had in our career. In that special surrounding, we had an audience of 2,500 people singing with us. When we sang that song to Miroslav, he reacted immediately. He began playing with us and working out the arrangement. "That's blues"that's what he said. All of the proposals and suggestions were accepted. And regardless if he hadn't been listening to many Dalmatian songs, he knew, on the basis of his enormous musical experience and the time spent in Croatia, how to approach them. He also knew how we were going to approach those songs. All of that gave it its signature and a different dimension. For our part we had to sing in duet and to sound like a klapa.
AAJ: How do you approach the songs you interpret? What is it that gives these songs your signature?
Ratko Teofilovic: A song is really a trinity, consisting of rhythm, verse and melody. Each song has its own pulse. Each song has its own heartbeat. You have to pick a song that is decisive. We choose the songs mostly because of its lyrics. For example, the words and the melody of "Hey, you shepherd." The lyrics are the song's metaphysics, or "Mome Stoe." You cannot remain indifferent to those words. And when you hear the melody...Regardless if it is written somewhere how someone else has sung it, it's you who holds the keys or the heart of the song. It is always performed differently. That is also a moment. Each song is a moment, but how it will look in the end, also depends on the moment. That is why our feeling about the music in that moment is sincere, since we give as we feel about the song in that instance. A sound engineer who was working with us described it, saying, "They don't sing, they paint."
When you paint, each of us has a film in his head or an idea how something should look. Once, we asked a friend, who is a singing teacher, what is it about the male voice that makes it more interesting than the female voice? The female voice can achieve more as it has a wider range, it can manage incredible things and do beautiful ornamentations. Yes, but the female voice doesn't have the tones that male voices have.