Stay Awhile is highly successful...
Paul Sullivan 2007
Sarajevo-born Téa Hodzic has expended immense energy over the years to bring her beloved Balkan folk to the masses.
Trained in classical guitar and opera, Hodzic was already established enough in her own country in the '80s to end up playing for President Tito (amongst other musical highpoints), before eventually moving to the UK and forming super-group Szapora, a band consisting of Hodzic, her sister, five British musicians and a Polish gypsy.
She has recorded several albums with Szapora, has kicked it live everywhere from Womad to Buckingham Palace, and has collaborated with (amongst others) the National Theatre and fellow Bosnian Goran Bregovic. In other words, Hodzic knows her stuff.
For Stay Awhile, she's joined by the equally experienced multi-instrumentalist Oliver Wilson-Dickson, and accordionist Luke Carver Goss (Mabon, Szapora and The Carver Trio), both of whom she has worked with for some time.
Focusing on what she describes as 'the jewels' of her homeland (i.e. former Yugoslavia), the album opens with the sweet, arching lament called "Cororo". Already Wilson-Dickson's dexterous violin (an instrument he’s been studying since the age of six), and Luke Goss’s compelling accordion act as perfect backdrops for Hodzic’s masterful voice.
The enchanting power of that voice is naturally heightened by the mysteriousness and majesty of the Balkan language (the title track, one of two original compositions on the album, is the one concession to the English language and gives a valuable insight into the preoccupations of these folkloric songs); in the same way, the songs themselves - shot through with traditional themes of nostalgia, love and pride – gain potency as the rhythms and arrangements become more intricate, and the playing more impassioned.
Songs like "Magla Padnala V Dolina" and "Zal Za Miadost" are immensely moving despite the impenetrability of the lyrics, while the pseudo-instrumental "Racenica" is as biting as anything Szapora have turned their hands to. A haunting mix of heartfelt balladry and folkish flair, Stay Awhile is highly successful in translating both the joy and vulnerability that exists at the core of much Balkan music.