1. Scena pojavljivanja majke (The Scene of Mother Appearing)
Music for this scene is based on the traditional Gypsy song Alo mange liloro (Ederlezi Avela). This is the most important piece in the soundtrack together with various arrangements of Ederlezi (St George’s Day). The version heard in this scene is a sparse instrumental arrangement. The sung version of Alo mange liloro is not included on the soundtrack, but features in the scene prior to “The Scene of Mother Appearing”. Mother is one of the strongest symbols both in this film and in Gypsy culture in general. The soundtrack adequately supports the underlying matriarchal concept of the film. Purity innocence, strength and courage of the Gypsy soul are all presented through Perhan’s grandmother Hatidza, his wife Azra and even his little sister Danira.These three women are all musically supported by the song Alo mange liloro (Ederlezi Avela) both in its original form and in various instrumental derivations.
2. Scena Perhanove pogibije (The Scene of Perhan’s Death)
Music for “The Scene of Perhan’s Death” consists of two sections. In the first section, the magnitude of Ederlezi is brought into an intimate setting though sparse instrumental arrangements and the composer’s favourite musical device – a child-like solo voice. Bregovic returns to the traditional Roma sound and language in this scene and musically finalises the last moment of that innocent state in which the character was initially presented in the film. The solo-voice becomes both the voice of dying Perhan and his little orphan son. This can be read as a metaphor for purity of a child’s heart and the positioning of an innocent Gypsy who has nothing in the material world but possesses enormous inner treasures.
The second section features the Gypsy brass and accompanies the funeral preparations at the house of Perhan’s grandmother. The music supports the tragi-comic end of the film in which Perhan’s little son steals the gold coins that the grandmother traditionally places on her dead grandson’s eyelids to wish him a safe and prosperous journey into the Heavenly Kingdom.
3. Kustino oro (Kusta’s Ring Dance)
Bregovic’s use of terminology is slightly confusing in the titles of the next two tracks. Oro is a synonym for the Serbo-Croatian word kolo – the ring dance.
These ring dances are found in the Gadje tradition more frequently than in the Roma culture. In both “Kusta’s Ring Dance” and “Bora’s Ring Dance” (see the next soundtrack number), Bregovic appropriates traditional Roma music to portray the descent of Gypsy morals through the negative Gadje perception. Following the “Negative Gadje Principle”, he is once again the cultural translator who appropriates the traditional sound into a quasi-Roma arrangement and musically accentuates the characters’ internal conceptual duplicity.
4. Borino Oro [Bora’s Ring Dance]
In Ahmed’s character, Kusturica expresses the bulk of the Gadje’s stereotypical negative associations with the Gypsies: violence, lack of moral values, weak character, sexually threatening behaviour towards both Roma and Gadje women, laziness and tendency to over-indulge in material possessions of questionable origins.
Both “Kusta’s Ring Dance” and “Bora’s Ring Dance” are actually arrangements of the traditional dances from the Gypsy-populated regions in Southern Serbia and Macedonia.
Borino oro and Kustino oro – the evolution of cocek
Bregovic uses the expression oro but both dances are in the form of a cocek – a popular dance form among the Gypsies. “Kusta’s Ring Dance” is heard several times during various celebrations regardless of their purpose: Ahmed’s return to the ghetto, Perhan and Azra’s wedding and Ahmed’s second wedding. The appearance of this piece in the wedding scenes is appropriate, as this is Bregovic’s arrangement of the most popular Gypsy cocek – Sunen Romalen Sunen Cavalen (Listen Gypsies Listen People).
5. Glavna tema (The Main Theme)
The main theme is another musical derivation of Ederlezi (St George’s Day) – the most substantial soundtrack composition.
The theme reinforces the conceptual positioning of the pure Gypsy characters who don’t experience the destructive transformation of diminishing their values and strength; together with Alo mange liloro it accompanies the courageous female characters. This music follows the development of Perhan’s wife, Azra’s character: from her youthful days, through her turbulent short marriage with Perhan and to her death at childbirth. Unlike in “The Scene of St George’s Day Celebration on the River” and in “The Scene of Perhan’s Death”, this arrangement of the song accentuates the vocal deliveries of the mixed large ensemble. This theme is heard in the scene of Azra’s death during childbirth and in the closing credits of the film and is performed by Bregovic’s old collaborators from his “White Button” period – Prvo beogradsko pevacko drustvo (The First Belgrade Singing Society).
Bregovic musically introduces the audience to the streets of Rome during Perhan’s desperate search for his sister Danira. This is a bittersweet introduction to Rome, the city of art and culture that also swallows thousands of Gypsy children-beggars.
7. Pjesma talijanska (Italian Song)
Bregovic creates a musical analogy for Kusturica’s portrayal of conceptual duplicity within one character. He arranges the melody for solo accordion, solo piano and for a small ensemble. Perhan plays it in the film; the accordion version represents his favourite song. We see him as a young Gypsy boy clumsily playing the tune while he is completely besotted by Azra, the girl he wants to marry. He also plays it for his grandmother and his ill little sister.
The piano version is heard when Perhan, now a young gangster breaks into a big, rich house in Italy and finds a grand piano in the living room. His instant reaction is to sit down and play the Italian tune. That motive becomes both, a momentary return to his old conceptual proximity of the original Gypsy-self, and the reminder of the distance between that personality and the new transformation. Even the symbolism constructed in the scene accentuates the vanity and fake glamour developed at the expense of character and morality. Perhan wears nice Italian clothes and plays on a grand piano, but his fingers are out of practice, the tone is harsher and his hand stumbles across the keys even more clumsily than it does on the accordion.
The small ensemble version becomes the leit-motive for the life on the streets of Milan.
8. Ederlezi (St George’s Day)
I frequently wonder if Bregovic could have ever known that Ederlezi (St George’s Day) would remain one of the rare pieces of music that still today has the power to glue together the broken former Yugoslav ethnicities at least for a few minutes of its duration. It really is as though, Yugoslavia's favourite other, the Gypsies, have become the connecting point for the raging Gadje. Bregovic, himself talks about the unique appeal of Ederlezi, a song so essential it does not even need to be recognised by the composer who wrote it.
I am happy that over time it is forgotten who composed it, instead it is sung in the taverns as traditional. And that happens once in a life-time of some composer – to write something and for the work to have a nature not of something deliberately composed, but rather of something that was self-created.
(Bregovic, November 2001)
Ederlezi remains Bregovic’s masterpiece that initially placed him on the world map of soundtrack composition. It is also interesting to mention that St George is probably the only Saint whose day was celebrated by all the nationalities and religions in the former Yugoslavia as it signifies spring and rebirth. It is not surprising then that the essence of this Gypsy song still remains as the last connecting point of the broken Yugoslav nation.
Nostalgia is the essence of Gypsy song, and seems always to have been. But nostalgia for what? Nostos is Greek for a “return home”; the Gypsies have no home, and, perhaps uniquely among peoples, they have no dream of a homeland. Utopia-ou topos-means “no place.” Nostalgia for utopia: a return home to no place. O lungo drom. The long road.
(Fonesca, I., 1996 p.8.)
Ederlezi, as heard in “The Scene of St George’s Day Celebration” is the most compositionally substantial work in the entire film. It is also the most complex piece portraying Gypsies from the “Roma Principle”.
Kusturica exposes the Roma lifestyle and their customs in their most natural form, without any directorial alterations of the documented celebrations and traditions. Everything is important in Kusturica’s films: the foreground, middle ground and background, all these aspects are naturally amplified through the sheer magnitude of the St George’s Day ritual. This scene captures the art of Gypsy life – as one with nature, respectful of the Earth, the four seasons and of oneself and the others.
The ritual alone is so artistic that it transforms realistic filming into magic realism. A similar concept occurs in Bregovic’s composition – this work needs no hybridity or cross-traditional gestures. The magnitude of the composition comes from the greatness of its purpose and intention – this is a ritualistic musical analogy of the scene.