Ljiljana Buttler

Ljiljana Buttler was born in Belgrade on 14th of December 1944. Her father was an accordi on virtuoso and her mother a Croatian singer. But her father left soon after she was born and her mother had to support herself and her child, singing in bars. They settled in Bijeljina, a small town in Bosnia, but one night her mother fell ill and Ljiljana went to the cafe and said "My mother can't come tonight, she's sick. Please let me sing." She was only 12 but had learned at her mother's side.


A year later her mother left and Ljiljana was on her own she continued singing in cafes to support herself through school. Then she headed for Belgrade. "I started singing in bars in Skadarlia (the famous restaurant quarter, a sort of Balkan Montmartre)", she remembers. "The atmosphere was fantastic. The people laughed and cried during the music. That always inspired me that and strong sljivovica (plum brandy), lots of sad loves and lots of emotion and romance. Sometimes we made recordings for Radio Belgrade. They simply came to the cafes, listened to the music and if they liked it, asked the musicians back to the radio to record".


From 1980 Ljiljana started doing concerts and became well-known on TV until the political and musical mood started changing with so-called turbo-folk providing the soundtrack for the Milosevic era. "Even before the war, I realised that somehow the joy had vanished and the Balkan men were no longer interested in love stories. Suddenly it became important to wear a short skirt and flash your cleavage. The shorter the skirt, the better singer you were thought to be. I realised my time was over. It was a time for weapons and hatred. It affected me terribly and the war that followed has left scars that will last forever." ..


In 1987 she vanished from the Balkan music scene in which she played such a dominant role, leaving music lovers wondering about her mysterious disappearance. In 2002 she decided to return to her homeland and record a new album on the Snail Records label. Her vocal abilities on "Mother of Gypsy Soul" lead us to the depths of Gypsy and Balkan soul. What she is presenting to us is a pure handbook of Balkan Blues. The astonishing reappearance of this lost legend is something to be more than grateful for. .. Her performance on the albums shows why, in the former Yugoslavia, she was referred to as the 'Gypsy Ella Fitzgerald' and the 'Billie Holiday of Gypsy Music', but mostly she was called lovingly the 'Mother of Gypsy Soul'.


Ljiljana Buttler died on 26th of April 2010 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Ljiljana Buttler - Releases

The Mother of Gypsy Soul

The Legends of Life

Frozen Roses


We are proud to announce that the first album available in all High Resolution Audio formats (pcm/dsd/dxd ) is the Album "The Legend of Life" by Ljiljana Buttler and Mostar Sevdah Reunion. With much attention to detail and sound we cleaned/restored all the audio. Remastered the tracks using a world class tube EQ,  and finally captured it back in high_res audio from our high_speed analog Studer A80 tape at 30ips.  Using the newest merging/pyramix hardware and software. The album is now available from our online store !

Ljiljana Buttler - Videos


Ljiljana Buttler - Press Reviews


Simon Broughton, Songlines -UK, September/October 2002

Ljiljana Buttler is one of the great re-discovered voices of Eastern Europe. Deep, dark and distinctive. Her recording with the Mostar Sevdah Reunion band, "The Mother of Gypsy Soul (Snail Records) is one of my CDs of the year and impresses everyone I've played in to .”


Garth Carthwright, FRoots Magazine, UK January/February 2003

Ljiljana Buttler's debut CD is delicious: Ljiljana's deep, almost masculine, voice picks out words and tosses them into the air with effortless grace. And the instumental backing by Mostar Sevdah Reunion and legendary trumpet virtuoso Boban Markovic is inspired: the musicians spoon out the notes with a tangilble, almost erotic, delicacy while Ljiljana sails above them, her voice caressing the listener.”


Kim Burton, Songlines,-UK, September/October 2002.

Songlines recommends!!!” ... Something very special indeed!”


Mark Nolis, Roots Town Music-Belgium , 2002

“A master piece in every aspects !”


Zlatko Gall, Slobodna Dalmacija- Croatia, May 2003.

“Gypsy Cosmic blues, 5***** ...Mother of Gypsy soul is simply one more perfect album with signature of Mostar Sevdah Reunion and the best CD released by Ljiljana.”


( Twentse courant, Holland, 03.02.2003)

Beautiful music which breaths sadness, bitterness, melancholy and hope. Beautiful recorded and produced. 5*****



Garth Carthwright, Froots Magazine, UK, june 2007.

The legends of Life is, to me, an even better album than Mother of Gypsy Soul. For a start, singer and band are more familiar with one another so the music rolls effortlessly forward. Ljiljana's wonderfully deep voice sailing above the ensemble's beatific playing... "A colossal Achievement!”


Sunday Times, UK, April 2007.

“Now here is a voice that has been lived in. Once a leading light of Balkan gypsy music, Buttler spent a decade or more in obscurity in exile, at one time working as a cleaner to make ends meet. A comeback album won acclaim a couple of years ago, and this new disc is every bit as atmospheric. Buttler’s voice is surprisingly masculine and bluesy; and, if it is occasionally wayward, she has magnificent support from that Bosnian institution the Mostar Sevdah Reunion, creating a relaxed ambience poised between jazz, folk and blues. Another local legend, Saban Bajramovic, makes an appearance, but this is very much Buttler’s show.”


Jon Lusk, BBC Music magazine proms - BBC Music Choice,

August 2007.

After a Stellar Career in the Kafanas (music bars) of former Yugoslavia, Gypsy singer Ljiljana Buttler fled the Balkan war for obscure exile in Germany in 1990 before intrepid producer Dragi Sestic'rediscovered' her. With the viruoso acoustic group Mostar Sevdah Reunion, they made The mother of Gypsy soul (2003), a breathtaking collection of classic Bosnian sevdalinka - slow, tragic love songs. This 2005 follow - up of Roma and Yugoslav standars is marvellous. Buttlers's deep, sobbing voice is given sterling instrumental support, in particular by Mustafa Santic's accordion and clarinet and quest violinist Slobodan Stancic. A few upbeat dances lighten the mood, but otherwise misery has seldom sounded so musical.”



(Tim Cumming - Independent 2009)

No woman has a deeper , more soulful blues in her voice than this Serbian Roma star; who vanished during the Milosevic nightmare, only to return with Mostar Sevdah Reunion in 2002. Her voice goes deep and sounds old, and "Frozen Roses" is a brilliant, theapeutic hour of Buttler's blues, set to a smoky acoustic backing of subtlety and feeling. The closing wrist-opener, "Gloomy Sunday", makes Lou Reed's "Berlin" sounds like "Barbie Girl""


BBC - WORLD REVIEW MUSIC/Album  by Jon Lusk - 2009

The bulk of the songs are traditional, but Buttler's own brooding masterpiece Tesko Je Umreti hangs in the air with a mesmerising power, amplified by sterling instrumental support. The slithering violin of Slobodan Stancic lights up this and several other pieces, as does Mustafa Santic's empathetic accordion and clarinet. A walking bass on Mirisni Cvetak is one example of the subtle jazz influence that colours some arrangements, and the epic traditional song Placem Vec Tri Dana sounds like an inspired Balkan rewrite of Led Zeppelin's blues showstopper, Since I've Been Loving You. There are a few upbeat dances such as Verka Kaludjerka and Andro Verka and even some laughter to lighten things, but it's the slower numbers that really burn themselves into the memory. Misery has seldom sounded so musical.”










Snail Records 2018


Dragi Šestić

Founder/Artistic Director/Producer/Bookings

mail : dragi@snailrecords.nl


Wim Bult


mail : wim@snailrecords.nl


postal address


De Baander 64 |                       3823 VK | Amersfoort |

The Netherlands

Ljiljana Buttler - Press Reviews

Ljiljana Buttler

Ljiljana Buttler - Releases

Ljiljana Buttler - News

Ljiljana Buttler - News


Ljiljana Buttler - Videos

Ljiljana Buttler - Press Reviews



    2003. Summer in Amsterdam


    Producer Dragi Šestić is gratefully relaxing after months of laboring intensely on Ljiljana Buttler's first album "The Mother of Gypsy Soul". Whatever happens, no more changes. All done. Is he satisfied? No idea. It is finished. Rest. Rest? Two weeks later, his life is more hectic than ever. His home is alive with shrilling telephones, both mobile and landline. All day, all evening, all night. The Snail Records website is being flooded. "Who is she? Who is this woman? Whose voice is that? Where is she from? How did you find her? Tell us more about this woman. We want to know all there is to know. Can we see her?" He dreams of getting back to his studio, the recording sessions, working on the mix-down. All that seemed stressful then, now it seems an oasis of peace. Within a few weeks after the release, Liljana Buttler's CD has achieved cult status.


    1990. Fall in the Balkans


    A woman is packing her bags. She takes only the bare necessities for herself, for her children. She checks the room. She roams the house, her home, looking outside. The familiar view. Will she ever see it again? She absorbs it all one more time. This was it then. A couple of hours later she is on her way to the airport. This is a final goodbye to a rich life. To the star she was. To the colleagues she performed with and who were dear to her, like Ilijaz Delic. Goodbye also to the Balkans. To the buzzing crowd in the kafanas who flocked to hear her voice, to see her, to experience the magic of her miraculously deep voice, of her hypnotizing personality: Ljiljana Petrović, Diva. She pre-senses the imminent war. She also notices how her music is popularized by advancing commercialism. Is there still a future for her soul-touching music, if the soul is no more.


    Next day she is in Germany. She has to make a living, she has to keep her children alive. For fifteen years she does humble jobs, a chamber maid cleaning offices, hotels and restaurants. No standing ovations, no adulation, no-one to recognize her, no recognition. She accepts her new life, she has made her choice and is at peace. She marries, changes her name to Buttler, divorces. She no longer performs. Never again, she is certain of it.


    Never again? Producer Dragi Šestić realizing the wealth of Balkans folk music, explores, digs and collects them in the album Mostar Sevdah Reunion, reviving the tradition of the Sevdah, the ancient heartrending music of Bosnia. The band's lead singer: Ilijaz Delić. After the release of their first album in 1999, Mostar Sevdah Reunion enjoys an international breakthrough. He then focuses his attention on Ljiljana and contacts her.


    Can she resist the tempting call from a not forgotten yet deeply buried past? Iljiaz, her stage companion of the smoke-filled kafanas of yesteryear, is he performing again after all these years? She stubbornly resists. Is she to open up what was once closed for good. No, there will be no return to the past. Absolutely not ! But still ….. The seed of doubt has been sown. The persuasive powers of Šestić do the rest. Fine, no live shows, no direct confrontation with the past, no auditoria, but studio work. Šestić calls in Mostar Sevdah Reunion to help. There were good reasons why he wanted to entrust Ljiljana to these musicians with their proven track record. First, their virtuosity. Mišo Petrović is a master of the guitar, as Mustafa Santic is unmatched on accordion and clarinet. But it was not solely their instrumental virtuosity that counted. Especially Mišo's innovative scores for traditional Balkan compositions were an important reason. Also essential was the balance Mustafa each time succeeded in finding between almost revolutionary changes and the classic Balkan spirit. Each breathtaking solo witnesses this harmony. He attracted another old familiar face, Boban Marković, the most celebrated trumpet player of Serbia. And this is how, in the Spring of 2003, with the recording of "The Mother of Gypsy Soul", is created the comeback of one of the greatest talents in the history of gipsy music Ljiljana Buttler. From then on, the names Mostar Sevdah Reunion and Ljiljana Buttler are inextricably bound up with one another.


    A terrific album, but there exists an enormous gap, the gap between artist and audience that cannot be bridged by technology. The distance between studio and living room. Ljiljana sings, in the studio, and is not heard. The voice is recorded, and travels. Somewhere in a home, in Mostar, London, New York, Amsterdam the voice is heard and appreciated. The voice moves, exhilarates, hurts, comforts, but the living body from which it arises did not come with it. The listener creates an image, sculpting to his individual wishes a body to match the sounds and imagining a contact; because, he is moved. Not the singer though. She sings, but cannot create an audience, not even an imagined one. The listener is comforted by the images and creates a duality. The singer is lonely, immersed in her song, but when de song has died down, the loneliness remains. The need to share grows. And so…


    Everyone was nervous with the approach of the date for the May 2003 Gipsy Festival in The Handelsbeurs in Gent, Belgium, the first live performance of Ljiljana Buttler after more than a decade. Could she handle the pressure? Was she strong enough to take to the stage again, sensing the audience's expectations, expectations she had to live up to. In fact, would she be able to live up to the demands she made on herself striving for perfectionism. Would she succeed in disengaging from the images of previous shows. She knew the atmosphere of the kafanas in her mother country, embracing her with its warmth. This was different, new, unknown, and the audience would display a wait and see attitude.


    After a few numbers by the Mostar Sevdah Reunion band warming up the audience, it was her turn. Out from the pitch black backdrop she came dressed in black, veiled in black velvet and barefoot, and reached front of stage where she halted. Her enormous stature remained immobile. She waited. The audience was dead silent. An odd sort of tension prevailed. Everyone was holding their breath. The first instrumental chords of her act could be heard and there rose her grand, dark, fathomless voice, in a lament: "Ashun Daje Mori" (Mother hear my misery), and all sensed in that lament a pain greater than herself alone. It was the pain of all humanity being expressed in song.


    After the first chorus she lifted her veil. She was crying. The members of the band watched, in silence, some with tears in their eyes and they were not alone. In that silence a little girl approached the stage stretching out her arms, begging to be touched. The audience wept.


    The spell was broken. With her next songs she exhilarated the crowd, Balkan beats flooding the auditorium. On stage, Ljiljana's overwhelming, warm, dominating stature from which sounded again and again her fascinating voice. She conquered her audience, using her overwhelmingly strong and at the same time mild, motherly personality to make it laugh, sink in silence, dance, weep. The audience surrendered itself to her and embraced her. Here stood a great artist, a star, a diva who had no desire to be a diva and for this reason alone was more than that.


    After the concert, with everyone hugging each other and especially her, came the question: "Your shoes, Ljiljana, what did you do with your shoes?" "Oh, I was so scared, so nervous, that I had to take off my shoes to be able to feel the floor so I knew I really was here on this earth".


    Then everything went fast. Concerts across the Balkans, the Benelux, at the Barbican Center in London, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Womad in Rivermead. The years of silence had been swept away and when she took the stage, she was there like before, compelling, inescapable, but her voice was deeper, warmer, more profound than ever. In England, film director Mira Erdevicki contacted Dragi Šestić, asking to make a documentary about the miraculous birth of Mostar Sevdah Reunion and the no less amazing rebirth of Liljana. Mira's production company Arcimboldo Ltd co-produced the film with the BBC and Bosnian national TV- JSBH. The sixty-minute moving film was picked up worldwide by various TV broadcasting companies.




    Comment written by Chris van den Hoogen.



 click on album cover



    The story about the SECOND album , The Legends Of Life ( 2006 )


    Dragi felt the time was ripe for a second album and this time she did not take much persuasion. Recording was scheduled for August 2005 in the Pavarotti Center in Mostar of a show by Ljiljana and Mostar Sevdah Reunion. But not only they would be there. To everyone's surprise, Saban Bajramović was there too, the legendary, elusive, unpredictable gipsy singer. A Serbian company wanted to make a film of his life. This included a soundtrack, which Dragi was asked to record with Mostar Sevdah Reunion. Saban and Ljiljana went way back, but there had always been this indefinable tension between them. They felt mutual admiration, respected the other's talents and professionalism, loved to hear the other perform, but, but ….. It had always been sort of a love-hate relationship with both taking a delight in spreading the most unusual stories about the other. As if this was not enough, another musical giant stepped up, who was not particularly known for his amiable, compliant nature: Naat, the celebrated trumpet player of Macedonia. Dragi had succeeded in snaring him to accompany Lilijana in her song "Andro Verka" . And then there was the band: Mostar Sevdah Reunion. Here too, no lack of opinionated views and, justifiably aware of individual craftsmanship, not one of the band members would allow himself to be overshadowed. Only at his arrival in Mostar, proceeding to the Pavarotti Center, Dragi Šestić realized the kind of company he had managed to bring together. He broke out in a cold sweat.


    Tight scheduling ensured a strict division of the various recording sessions. Ljiljana felt at ease and determined to give herself entirely. During the studio sessions as well she was the imposing, dominating and amiable personality she was in the theater. A diva, even with only the microphone, fully in control of the situation. The repertoire that had been agreed after endless meetings was designed to fully realize her vocal capacities. Her total vocal pallet was to be utilized. Some songs originate from the sixties, for many the Golden Age of Balkan music. She sings two sevdalinkas " Karanfile Cvijeće Moje" and "Plačem Već Tri Dana" with a score specially made by Mostar Sevdah Reunion with her in mind. Particularly the way in which she interprets "Plačem Već Tri Dana" is proof of the utter equivalence of Sevdah and Blues. Then follow a series of gipsy classics that, as a result of her interpretation, her voluminous voice and her profound empathy, are elevated to a level not seen often seen before. One of the most striking aspects of the album is its mood. Gradually a new type of music grows from the cross of blues and jazz elements and classic Sevdah and gipsy traditions. This development would be unimaginable without Mostar Sevdah Reunion, the only band capable of sensing accurately what is required to bring Ljiljana to her top performance while maintaining an uneven equilibrium between tradition and innovation.


    The recording sessions started with Ljiljana and then, after one week, Saban. Ljiljana left for Belgrade. Five days later, the first recording section with Saban almost concluded, Ljiljana returned to Mostar one day early. Saban was taking a break and at that same moment Ljiljana left her apartment on the first floor of Pavarotti Center descending the stairs. She was bored and thought she would see what was happening in the studio. The band had started jamming and having some serious fun. Dragi saw Ljiljana descending. His eyes went from her in the direction of the studio where Saban was taking his break, and he realized that within minutes the two absolute giants of Balkan gipsy music would be together in one room with all the requisite recording facilities. "Rupuni", he whispered to the band members, who started grinning. "Rupuni", a typical Saban song. They watched Ljiljana, who was now standing in the studio door a few feet from Saban. Then they looked over to him and struck the first chords. He straight away picked up the melody, starting to sing in a taunting manner with his eyes riveted to Ljiljana. She froze, closed her eyes for a second, relaxed, awaited the right moment and in a manner no less taunting started her part. This created an unscheduled jam session of over an hour, during which they tried to best one another with ever more ingenious improvisations, idiosyncratic modifications to the lyrics, no longer comprehensible for others but evidently replete with significance for them, and backed by a band fascinated by this musical duel. Abruptly they collapsed in a couple of chairs laughing and relaxed.


    Thirty minutes later happened what Dragi had hoped for. The two greatest gipsy vocalists ever, joined in their love for the same music and mutual respect, sang in harmony "Rupuni, Rupuni" which means: don't believe the gossip….




    Review written by Chris van den Hoogen.

    Accordion, Clarinet – Mustafa Šanti

    Arranged By – Mostar Sevdah Reunion

    Backing Vocals – Silvana Simić (tracks: 8,10)

    Bass [Berde Bass] – Kosta Latinović

    Design, Photography By – Pascale van Bemmel

    Drums, Percussion – Sead Avdić

    Engineer [Assistant] – Armin Mustafić

    Illustration – Mea Braun

    Lead Guitar – Mišo Petrović

    Liner Notes – Chris van den Hoogen

    Mastered By – Chris Beckers

    Restored & Remasterd for High Resolution Audio By – Wim Bult ( 2015 )

    Photography By [Booklet Page 23] – Sandi Durakovic

    Producer – Dragi Šestić

    Recorded By, Mixed By – Dragi Šestić, Saša Karabatak

    Rhythm Guitar – Sandi Duraković

    Translated By [Lyrics For The Booklet] – Kim Burton

    Trumpet – Naat Veliov (tracks: 6)

    Violin – Nedjo Kovačević, Slobodan Stančić (tracks: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11)

    Vocals – Ljiljana Buttler




    Review written by Chris van den Hoogen.


    Recorded and mixed in the period of June-August 2005 at Studio "Neretva" - Music Center Pavarotti- Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fully restored, cleaned & remastered for high_resolution (DSD/DXD), by inlinemastering ( Wim Bult ) in 2015.



 click on album cover



    The story about the THIRD album , Frozen Roses ( 2009 )


     Now, there's her third album, Frozen Roses. As these three albums show, her musical development went on during all those years of silence. The influence of jazz has increased, the blues atmosphere is ever more recognizable, the directness is more felt, culminating in high point which is Frozen Roses. This is a harmonious combination of her roots, Balkan folk, with the rhythmic elements of jazz and a complete absence of needless ornamentation. This development towards a greater directness, towards more simplicity and the mix of Balkan style can clearly be felt on the new album, especially in the following numbers.


    Firstly, there is "Gjelem, gjelem", the traditional considered to be the anthem of the Gypsy music. On her first album she sings a version which is completely her own. Even the harmonies there differ from the original version. In Frozen Roses the harmonies are played the usual way, traditionally, but they're played slower, with a jazzy atmosphere, where a trumpet solo is added, by which the number gets a deeper, more serious tone. The meaning of the lyrics doesn't get lost anymore, as it used to in the traditional version where the drama was always emphasised. Here, on the contrary, the meaning is underlined, made clearer by the bareness. We hear something similar in the title opening "Ne kuni me, ne ruzi me majko", one of the most famous Yugoslav traditionals, brought here with the bass and the percussions only. Next, "Kada moja mladost prodje", a famous sevdalinka song written by a legendary sevda-songwriter Jovica Petrovic. No sevda-connoisseur would have believed it that such a strict form like sevdalinka could be sung this way, in a bluesy way, like Ljiljana does here.


    In "Ostala je pesma moja" Ljiljana reminisces about one of her best friends. The song is dedicated to a legendary Gypsy singer Vida Pavlovic, in her memory. With her, she played countless times in the Belgrade's kafanas and countless times she sang this song that became a trademark of all the kafanas in Skadarlija, and many others outside of it. in memory of Vida, she changed the lyrics adding a verse:


    "To remember Mama Vida. When she sings Our hearts break".


     The last song on the album has a special meaning within the classic songbook of Balkan music: "Szomorú vasárnap", in the West known as "Gloomy Sunday", a song around interwoven with dark urban legends, which survive to this day. The Hungarian composer Rezsó Seress composed the music in 1933, and his friend, the poet Lászlo Jávor wrote the lyrics. At least… here's where the problems begin already. Some sources say that Seress actually wrote the first two couplets, which then, for unknown reasons, were subsequently replaced by those written by Javor. Whatever the truth might have been, what is sure is that both of them must have found themselves in a state of endless sadness in order to write such a song. The music is made of a repeating theme, a question looking for an answer, which fails to materialize, the question is then being asked again, and again, and again…And every time the vicious circle where there's no possible way of escaping it. In the lyrics a man on a "gloomy Sunday" is grieving about losing his great love and, as the hypnotic music is suggesting, sees no other way out except suicide. It was also a gloomy Sunday, a drowsy autumnal afternoon in a grey Budapest, where Seress was hitting the piano keys in his squalid rented apartment, almost drowning in the gaping emptiness left by the departure of his lover. Almost by itself the chords formed under his hand, pouring into a sombre, hallucinating melody, a fatal repetition of the question to which there was no answer to be found, again and again. In another part of town, in another shabby apartment, the words were dripping from the pen of Laszlo Javor, words trying to render the sadness repressing him because his lover had left him, for good. That's how the text and the melody found each other.


    Seress, who until then had enjoyed little success, sent the music and the lyric titled "Gloomy Sunday" to music publishers all of which refused it completely. One of those explained his refusal: "It's not that it's sad. There is a macabre atmosphe.re of inevitable hopelessness hanging about it, and I don't think listening to such a song would bring any good to anyone." Eventually, he did find a publisher and later on a bemused Seress saw his composition becoming a bestseller. Filled with happiness, he sent to his former lover a proof of his success, asking her at the same time about her leaving him, hoping for reconciliation. She failed to answer. A couple of days later he got a message that she was found dead in her apartment. Suicide. Poisoning. In her stiff hand the music charts of Gloomy Sunday.


    The song could be heard everywhere now, its music was played often, and more often still Gloomy Sunday got associated with other suicides - so often that is, that the Budapest police insisted the song be prohibited completely. The fatal influence of the music didn't stop in Hungary. From all big cities of Europe, messages arrived about the horrible effects Gloomy Sunday exerted on people. It became unbearable. In Berlin, an eighty-three old man jumped from a tenth floor while the song could be heard from the open window. In Rome, the rumour went, a messenger boy heard someone humming the song. He parked his bicycle by the bridge railing, walked, humming the tune continually, towards it and jumped into the Tiber, to his death…


    In England, the fear spread that the supposed effect of the song might be true. The BBC didn't want to censure the song openly, but decided not to play it anyway. When the rumours finally subdued, and eventually disappeared completely, the record could be played again, be it the instrumental version only, of which a gramophone record was released as well. A couple of weeks later, residents of an apartment building in London complained about the music that wouldn't stop: in one of the flats a record player was found, the needle stuck in the groove of the record, repeating the bleak melody. On the couch a body of a woman. On the ground a bottle of barbiturates. Next to it, the charts of Gloomy Sunday.


    And Serres? He lived until 1968. And then, a couple of days after his birthday, a small notice appeared in the papers: the composer Rezsó Serres has committed suicide. He jumped from a tall building in Budapest. On a Sunday. This is one of the many versions of the urban legend about "The Suicide Song". The truth? The legend lives on.


    The fact is that the song reached America. In 1936, the first version was recorded and there, too, Gloomy Sunday was well received. But real success came in 1941 when Billie Holiday made her version. The lyrics were translated, most likely not from Hungarian, by Sam M. Lewis, although it's difficult to talk about a translation here; one could rather call it a very loose adaptation. The reason is that he, following the legendary reputation of the song, permitted himself almost inappropriate licence with the original, although his version has some obvious poetic merits. It's striking how, in order to soften the depressing effect, a new verse that wasn't there in the first place has been added, which is trying to comfort the listener, suggesting that everything was just a dream. Here too, the fear that the song would have been otherwise unbearable. The expressiveness of the first two couplets is so strong that the macabre atmosphere of the original is barely scraped. One can see for oneself:



    Gloomy Sunday, the Sam M. Lewis version:


    Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless Little white flowers will never awaken you Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you Angels have no thought of ever returning you Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?



    Gloomy Sunday


    Gloom is Sunday; with shadows I spend it all My heart and I have decided to end it all Soon there'll be candles and prayers that are sad I know Let them not weep Let them know that I'm glad to go Death is no dream for in death I'm caressing you With the last breath of my soul I'll be blessing you

    Gloomy Sunday


    Dreaming, I was only dreaming I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart here Darling, I hope that my dream never haunted you My heart is telling you how much I wanted you


    Gloomy Sunday



    No real romantic could be misled by the clichés of the added third verse. Since then, Seress' song has been covered by almost all the greats of jazz and pop - to give a random sample: Ray Charles, Mel Tormé, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughn. And now Ljiljana Buttler too, who with her voice steeped in sadness brings a frightful interpretation of Sumorna Nedelja that makes many other versions pale by comparison. Alas, her interpretation, however impressive, is doomed not to share the success of the Western greats. The limitations are set by a dumb, but for world fame deadly coincidence: language. If her version wasn’t called Sumorna Nedelja but Gloomy Sunday instead, if the words from her mouth weren't those of a small language, but the lyrics of Sam M. Lewis, then surely Ljiljana Buttler would, by preference of Western audiences, too, belong to the gallery of the greatest.



    Review written by Chris van den Hoogen.





    Mišo Petrović lead guitar on 2,3,4,5,7 and 9 ; backing vocal on 4 and 6

    Jovan Djordjević- piano on 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10

    Suad Pašić - clarinet on 7 ; saxophone on 4 and 5

    Robert Baba - violin on 3,9 and 10

    Ellister van der Molen - flugelhorn on 2 ; trumpet on 4 and 6

    Sandi Duraković -rhythm guitar on 2,3,4,6 and 9 ; percussion on 1

    Senad Trnovac - drums on all tracks except 10

    Andor Horvat - double bass on all tracks Produced by Dragi Šestić

    Recorded and mixed by Milan Cirić and Dragi Šestić at SING-SING Studio in Metslawier, Holland during March-December 2008.

    Mastered by Wim Bult at Inlinemastering studio in Amersfoort, the Netherlands, February 2009.

    English translation of the songs and the text by Djordje Matić Photography and artwork by Pascale van Bemmel, Coverp.eu Amsterdam Photography page 1,4,8,9,14,18,23,48,49 by Amir Grabus


    Thanks to :  Slavica Sekuloski, Arja van der Bergh , Amir Grabus , Robert Baba and Chris van den Hoogen. Special thanks to Erik and Belinda Preuninger





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