Branko Galoić dances to the sound of freedom.
To the Croatian composer, who composes and writes alone, the creative process remains a rather mysterious zone. When he began Danse de la Liberté - his 8th album, some two years ago, he had one relentless idea in mind: to bring together, on one record, one same collective adventure, several of the talented individuals who’d previously crossed his path. Having spent the first half of his life in a country that no longer exists, and the next decades regularly uprooting himself and his heart, in some way, Branko Galoić reached out to those he’d loved working with, in the past. Singer Jelena Milušić and accordeonist Merima Klujco can be heard on Magic Carpet, for example.
More than 15 musicians, recording sessions held in Paris, Amsterdam, Silvolde (Holland), Novi Sad, Sarajevo…: Danse de la liberté is, above all, the result of connections made across time. First in Serbia, and later, with the members of the Amsterdam Brass Band. With musicians encountered during his Berlin years. And in Paris, of course, the city where he came for work and chose as his permanent base. This eighth album is also the result of his reunion with director and producer Thomas Couzinier.
“I am exhausted, but happy. This is my most ambitious, but also my best album, I think. I was able to select each track, and making it was a wonderful experience. I also had the opportunity to work with Jean-Christophe Vareille, a master in his field, and Thomas, whose ear is thankfully unforgiving. We had enough time to work, for once, and a little budget too, at least enough not to feel pressure, which is increasingly rare. Thomas really supported the project in every way he could. The studios were really good, and so was everyone involved. "
Galoić’s inspirations draw, much like himself, from a variety of worlds. His roots are in Balkan & Brass music. Goran Bregovic comes to mind, of course, because he’s the master, but one can definitely feel the musician’s affinity with film composers such as the great Nino Rota. The album overflows with a nervous, tightly-wound rock vibe, thanks to Galoić’s early influences: Hendrix, Santana and Clapton, amongst many others.
The delicacy of Leonard Cohen comes to mind, especially in the song If you want to love me. Amongst the songwriters known for the way they master a subtle mix of love, poetry and humor. Branko Galoić holds dear to his heart a few Croatian artists whose names have not made it to our side of the world, but he also mentions Aznavour, Jacques Brel and even Tom Waits. They live within these songs, seeping through the single Million Ways, for example, was recorded in two versions. In English first, Branko’s main language of communication, and in Croatian. "I needed to share this song as widely as I could, and the chorus came to me in Croatian easily. A poet friend helped translate the rest…”
There’s another piece of Galoić’s early Croatian years to be found in the unexpected and ever so charming cover of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood: “My brother and sister were older than me, they’d grown up in the 70s. They were obsessed with their gramophone, and they had a vintage record collection. Santa Esmeralda’s version of that song was the one I knew as a kid. One day, I was watching a Tarantino movie and bam! There it was. Years later, I was just playing it on the guitar, and decided to rework it through the Balkan influence… Touching this sort of masterpiece is dangerous, so I wanted to give it my own personal touch.”
The title of the album, Danse de la Liberté, borrows from one of his instrumental tracks. No statement there, just an echo of what the songwriter feels when he listens to Danse de la liberté. While his music draws from all his experiences, he doesn’t cultivate politics in his songs. And though the rise of nationalism around the world is a constant cause for concern for Galoić, who has been an irregular immigrant for so long, composing helps him forget about - at least for a while.
Another thing that takes his mind off politics is playing live which, like every artist in the world right now, Branko Galoić sorely misses these days. When asked about it, the guitarist can’t help but laugh: “Being on stage is the best part of my job. Lots of people actually tell us we’re better than live than in studio…!” The band can’t wait to get back in front of an audience, where they always get powerful reactions, wherever they perform.Galoić has played over a thousand concerts, from the smallest to the largest audiences. The band’s most memorable gig was in Germany, in front of ten thousand people, in Rudolfstadt. One can only hope for more concerts in France, once everything is safe again.
“My music reflects my vision of the world. That this album was made with Serbs and Bosnians, is a spontaneous occurrence, not a premeditated thought. But it comes, nonetheless, as an act of revolt against the rampant nationalism at work now, against anti-immigration actions and against the manipulative political current at work in the world."
Croatian composer, guitarist and singer-songwriter Branko Galoić combines his powerful brass sounds with a voice reminiscent of Dylan and a fondness for gypsy jazz. Deeply rooted in Balkan traditions, he explores and mixes a variety of styles and influences, from rock to film music, from reggae to swing, and even latin, arabic and mediterranean moods. Galoić was born in Zagreb, adopted by Amsterdam and applauded in Berlin, before being welcomed in Paris, which has been his homebase for a few years now.
Photo Credits / Branko Galoić: (1)-(2) unknown/website; (3) by The Mollis (Rudolstadt Festival 2017).