Chicago Reader: Bosnian singer Božo Vrećo brings a subversive genderfluid spirit to traditional sevdah music

Bosnian singer, dancer, and style icon Božo Vrećo has struck gold in his homeland and beyond by bringing a youthful, genderfluid, and subversive sensibility to sevdah (also known as sevdalinka), a Balkan folk form with Sephardic, Turkish, and Arabic influences. This beautiful melancholy singing experienced a resurgence following the Bosnian war, and it’s often been mixed with jazz, pop, and various international streams. Based in Sarajevo, Vrećo taught archeology before his band, Halka, caught fire in 2015, and he’s also released two solo albums, Moj Sevdah (2014) and Pandora (2017). Vrećo’s piercing, pure tenor spans the range of sevdah singers of any gender, and he lives his life in similar defiance of tradition: he has sometimes identified as gay in interviews, and currently identifies as both male and female (though he uses male pronouns). Bearded, tattooed, and decked out in sweeping long gowns during his performances, Vrećo cuts a dashing figure as his voice undulates and ululates through the aching twists and turns of both classic sevdah songs and his own compositions. The effect highlights the power of a reclaimed past projected through the technique and showmanship of a very modern artist. (18.10.2018)

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