Koha Ditore – Interview – February 2015

English Translation of the interview:

Serbian jazz with Hashima

Rexhep Maloku


The name of an island had been the cause for four young Serbian musicians to form a jazz band aiming to show folk values of Balkan music (amongs other influences like postrock, free-jazz and classical music). Rather, they insist that they will break the taboos that have neglected local treasures because of prejudice and the recent past of wars on the Balkan. “Hashima” aims to remove masks and to show artistic values of the region.

Tiny island of Hashima with a rich history in the Far East, was elected for the name of the quartet, consisting of guitarist Igor Miskovic, Vanja Todorovic, who plays double bass, drummer Aleksandar Hristić and saxophonist Srdjan Mijalković.

Miskovic, who has created the quartet,  explained in an electronic interview that the idea for the band emerged several years ago from a cycle of his poems with the same name.

The idea of Hashima hunted me, and I managed to use it as my main music concept”, says Miskovic, explaining the history of quartet name. “The name Hashima comes from Japanese island and it is a metaphor, for what we as a group believe that the world represents today”.


Music on behalf of the desert island

Japanese websites data show that the uninhabited island Hashima lies about fifteen kilometers from Nagasaki. There are still leftovers of ruined residential facilities, which once were vigorous of workers and families living with the sweat poured in rich underwater mines. The island that once had over five thousand residents, remained without any resident after mine were closed  in 1974. Now the small town is a rubble. Since 2009 it is an attraction visited by tourists. Dramatic music is associated with virtual journey on the Japanese websites that explain in detail the story of this abandoned island.

Our faces and streets and lives are faced far from the truth that is very frightening and we mask ourselves in worries, about getting a new TV or a new IPAD. Hashima is a metaphor of that truth”, says Miskovic.

Then he tells about a hidden hostility, almost at the level of prejudice against Balkan music in Serbia. The guitarist says that unfortunately “projected wave of guilt” has led to lose or spoil a lot of Serbian traditions including traditional feasts celebrations.

It is all now considered ugly, nationalistic and warlike in a way. Even playing folk dances from 100 years ago is considered something that is not supposed to be done”, says Miskovic. He says that there are a lot of prejudices about the values of all Balkan states. “Could you imagine somebody say a stupid thing like ‘Skenderbeg is a drink for albanian nationalists’”.

“Hashima” don’t exclude the possibility of inclusion of Albanian folklore in the future.

I would like to hear some Jazz or Classical music inspired by Albanian folk music. That could burn a bulb in my head. Famous composer Kosta Manojlović, (inspired by Albanian Folklore) wrote “The songs from the land of Skenderbeg (1933)”  but I haver never heard it. I just know about it”, says Miskovic.


Balkans Hashima’s

Members of Hashima just play what they feel. They do not intend to deal with the reactions that could cause their music that transcends the borders of Serbia.“There is a lot of great musical and spiritual material around us in Balkans that is being wasted. We are just using it, recycling it and making something new that communicates with us”.

Todorovic, instrumentalist with international experience in folklore ensembles, gives music special Balkan elements. Hristic, with his game mixing rock and jazz, makes the music more dramatic with his dynamics. Mijalkovic has a lyrical melodic tendency and in the contrast, some atonal noise approach. “Guitar is my instrument and I like to think that it has a very nice and raw sound that I make with it, and that is combining acoustic guitar sound with some carefully chosen effects. Our plan is to play the festivals and concerts in the region and in west Europe. Also, recording a first CD in a studio is our next step”, says Miskovic.

American magazine JazzTimes wrote about the band:

Hashima, an unusual mix of classicism, Balkan folk forms, avant-garde and lyrical racket”, wrote Thomas Conrad.

The band’s name is read in different ways by the fans. Miskovic confirms that some refer to it as “hash” for hashish.“It is a name that reflects different things”, says the Miskovic, who in the time he founded the band, had definitely not thought, that the name of the band could be associated with the name of the former prime minister of Kosovo, now First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Hashim Thaci. In fact, he does not like the politicians of the Balkan states at all.

All are pretty much the same. They are without a real connection with the people they get votes from. They just make a lot of macho Balkan faces and speeches so that they look strong and confident, but they are all on the other line with the West acting like good little boys”, adds Serbian artist. “ I never met Hashim Thaci, so I cannot say anything in particular, accept that in Belgrade he certainly has a bad reputation which is normal considering the whole situation. I just hope he is doing something good for the people living in Kosovo.”.


Breakfast with Albanian coffee

Balkan countries constantly face the international pressure to overcome political differences in their way of European integration. Increasingly, one party challenges the other one’s governance, putting persistent obstacles to mutual progress toward membership in European organizations.

Artistic values are the best way to overcome these problems and enjoy our life for it is not too long before we will end it”, says Miskovic, adding that the only problem with this thought is that it “only works for the five percent of the Balkan people who are into art“. He says the changes come only from those who reflect “real” life, not of what is reflected through television and messages on social networks.

I am not that kind of a dreamer to think that art changes these things. Art can be a wisdom and in best it can help people not to be so stubborn with their “dogmatic” views on life”, says Miskovic, not excluding the possibility of cooperation with artists from the region, regardless of their ethnic origin.

He was part of a cultural exchange between Pristina and Belgrade, during which he had thought about a possible concerts that could be organized in Kosovo. He was also in Prizren during international festival of short films and documentaries, “DokuFest”.

I have a lot of friends from Kosovo on Facebook and also, I drink Albanian coffee on a daily basis”, says Miskovic, who wants to come back to Prishtina again, but this time with his band Hashima, to be a part of a tour or maybe Prishtina Jazz Festival.

I think I heard last year Bojan Z played there. We would like to play if there is a will of a festival to invite us and people to listen to us”.


Published in the special edition of Sundays of daily Koha Ditore. February 15 2015



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