Vladimir Mickovic and Atilla Aksoj ( Arkul ) - The explorers of forgotten treasures.
Long after the last Sephardic melodies abated, and sevdah songs, which silently roll down the mahalas, got replaced with the noise of urban reality, two artists, tuned to the frequencies of ancient times, met and together took a path of their common journey into the depths of the cultural and historical treasures of the world. That is how Arkul came into being. Destiny caught Arkul at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Oriental influences, Vienna and Istanbul, an ancient Rome and Byzantine, in the country where the civilization, culture, religion and music merge into the heart of the Balkans. In Mostar, a city of rivers that flow from high mountains and deep karst caves into the blue eternal sea.
Vladimir and Atilla, the explorers of forgotten treasures. Searching through the fate of folk traditions of Sephardic Jews, they came upon a tenuous sensibility of folk songs and ballads, which the Jewish community brought along in 1492, when they were expelled from Spain. Songs have been preserved through centuries of wandering around and were sung along the paths of exile, thus spread through Europe.
While the emotions boded patchwork of wandering, blueness of the sea, the scent of stone lanes and heavy yearning skies; collected for generations, emotions have found their way to Vladimir and Atilla, and through ARKUL sang their timeless music.
Sephardic Jews first moved to the region of today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina somewhere between the end of the 15th and during the 16th century when, during the dark times of the inquisition they were – ironically, in 1492 – banned form Spain. Despite the unimaginable trials and challenges in the centuries that followed, the Jewish community – the Sephardim and especially later the Ashkenazi’s ( or Eastern European Jews ) have not only survived but, almost during the whole periods, both exercised a huge cultural influence on the autochthon Slavic population, itself divided between the three dominant religions, and the culture as a whole.
The Sephardim spoke Ladino – an old Spanish dialect interspersed with Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic. This particular dialect found an ideal milieu within South Slavic language that itself underwent a number of radical linguistic influences, and was also a language that thrived in such eclecticism.
During the following centuries the Ladino dialect had of course picked up some Slavic words and terms, but still demonstrated a strong resilience to change – to which testifies an immediate ‘archaic” feel, experienced by almost every listener exposed to the language today.
Currently, there are still around 500 speakers of Ladino in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even a small revival of the language has been noticed – largely owing to the music.
Arkul - Il Bastidor
Our Arkul (amphora) tells stories about everything Sephardic Jews went through during their exodus and their journeys on the Mediterranean, on their way to the ‘better’ lands. These receptacles are filled with melodies and sounds forgotten during the long trips of the people who for decades wandered from sea to sea, meeting different peoples, learning customs and songs. The sounds of Arkuli today are like stories from the past that could teach us what we need the most now - the will to meet ‘others’ and curiosity about them.
In our narrow minded times, the time of egotistic and narcissistic individualism, we want to turn the ‘other’ into one of ‘our own’. It is a sad contrast to the times we are trying to discover and sing in the forgotten Sephardic song. In these meetings with the ‘Other” at the seashores, the shores that begot great civilizations, the stories, myths, melodies, sounds and songs, interlaced with no fear. It wasn’t always easy.
Contact with the ‘other’, with the unknown, excites us constantly but it frightens some too. At first there was fear, but after some time it disappeared, and gave place to curiosity. The desire to get to know those we feared. The ones we lived close to, whom we encountered by chance. Like small children we’d go closer to the unknown, trying to inspect it, to understand it. Curiosity about the unknown gave birth to Forbidden Love. That love was breaking chains, it was like a curious child. The children of the forbidden love today are still looking in the distance, their glance riveting the open Sea. The journeys continued, and the forbidden loves but turned into happy marriages, the marriages of the recognized differences. Il bastidor protected the courageous newlyweds in their decision to break free from parental and tribal proscriptions.
There is no dawn at the sea. A clear light wakes us up suddenly, as suddenly as it appeared and lit the surface of the high sea. Journey is salvation. Sailing is a journey too. Egypt is not far, and the sea is heavy. We are banished again. Floating the sea surfaces. The shores appear from time to time, they are salvation. The Pessah came just when the great coast appeared.
There is no life without love, love during the voyages is the anchor for the nomads. It makes it easier to go through the long days, and makes us forget all the trouble easier and quicker. The good days remain. Good weeks, months, and with children, good years.
Travellers, nomads, those looking for a ‘better’ land for themselves and their own, for peace and the place where only stories would remind them of their long-gone, accomplished journey towards better and safer seaports, those are the people who know farewells, unfulfilled loves and wishes. On the eyes and lips of travellers often stays a bitter and heavy taste of the words ‘Good bye my loved one’. The perhaps never touched lips, the unseen eyes bid farewell because the journey is ahead of us, it’s waiting.
The long, unexpectedly long journey must end sometimes. In that new place, which someday perhaps will too be ours, mine, we have to meet its inhabitants. Offer them our stories, our bread, our song. A song is universal communicative gossamer, understood by all. It won’t hurt, but it will entangle you into stories and memories of times and journeys, meetings and acquaintances. Let’s call it The Feast of Fruitfulness of the human mind and its wish to meet others, the wish for the shared happiness of people, sometimes we all wish for and hope for.
“who’s there at the window?”, there’s a song coming from the window, a song I know! I don’t know the words, but I can recognize the melody, it seems like it’s coming from one of ours, the song we sang at our journey song, a long journey. Madame Gaspar sings it, yes the madam who before us made that journey, the one of encounters and recognition. I don’t want to talk about her anymore, a song on this album will tell you much more about her. Perhaps it will sound familiar to you too, as a spirit of the times long gone, the times that aren’t going to die. Another day is behind us, a day in the succession of days since we arrived in this seaport. Is this the “better’ land’? Maybe more about that tomorrow. Now it’s time to rest. Sleep, sleep …
Produced by Atilla Aksoj
Recorded and Mixed by Atilla Aksoj at BARAKA Studio Mostar. Bosnia and Herzegovina January-February 2008
Assistant Engineer : Pedja Pierre Vucinic
Arranged by Atilla Aksoj and Vladimir Mickovic
Mastered by Wim Bult at Inlinemastering
Arkul thanks Mostar Jewish Community and Eliezer Papo for his invaluable suggestions and support.
Atilla & Vladimir thanks their family and friends
All songs published by Snail Publishing 2008
You can play 6 tracks from the album
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Vladimir Mićković and Atilla Aksoj ( Arkul )
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