Jova "Besir" Stojiljkovic

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The world music scene has been kind to the concept of the Yugoslavian brass band. The '90s came to a close with NATO bombs falling on Serbia, to which it is a small consolation that ethnic music fans…
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The world music scene has been kind to the concept of the Yugoslavian brass band. The '90s came to a close with NATO bombs falling on Serbia, to which it is a small consolation that ethnic music fans throughout the decade had been seeking out recordings of these rowdy, swinging units featuring hot trumpet solos, pulsing beats kept by tuba and bass drum, and metric structures that would make a calculator weep. One of the biggest hits in this genre of music was the Globe Style album by Jova Stojilkovic, nicknamed Besir, and his Serbian brass band. This album was widely distributed throughout North America and Europe, quickly leading to gig opportunities for an ensemble who had previously stuck to weddings. Their city's name means "huge village," which is a lie in the style of former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic -- Golemo Solo apparently consists of only a few dozen houses and a handful of shops. The bandmembers are all from the Romany gypsy people, and many of them descend from families of professional musicians. The leader represents the third generation of professional musicians in his family, and the line could go back farther (nobody is quite sure). Other orchestra members also include two pairs of brothers and one of their sons. None of these players knows how to read music or has any formal training, so the brass band traditions are passed on by rote. Of the various musicians, the leader is the oldest, born in 1944, while the bubanj (bass drum) player is the babe of the group, 22 years younger than his boss.

The band was formed out of a group of musicians who all knew each other and had worked together regularly in a variety of projects. They chose Besir as their leader not only because of his top-quality musicianship, but because they sensed that he had business savvy. It was a smart move because under his leadership the band has turned into an international touring act, the names of cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin proudly stenciled across the front face of the booming bubanj. Whether appearing at a world music festival, gala dance party, or local wedding, the band plays the same repertoire. Their music blends influences from Serbia, Turkey, the Romany people, and even Egypt, and when all the horns are blowing, they are as lively and rich a blend as these lands. The only perceivable downside is that perhaps the market for recordings of this music is viewed as limited, because in the decade following the release of Blow, Besir, Blow, the band was unable to release a follow-up album.