This is the 8th and final article in a series that friends encouraged me to write after returning from a trip to Bosnia and Croatia in January and February 2011. You can see all the photos from Bosnia here and Croatia here.
I returned to Seattle on February 7, happy to be home and overwhelmed with gratitude and jumbled emotions ranging from despair to elation: Rahmetli Omer’s memorial, humanitarian work, media appearances, concerts, sightseeing, conversations with new friends and old, jet lag. It’s still difficult to sum up this trip, so quit trying and just let it keep rippling through my heart, mind and soul.
Simply put, these articles were meant to be a mirror reflecting the goodness I saw all around. It was an enormous privilege to bear witness to the strength, dignity, humility, resiliency, kindness and generosity of so many people, to the abundance of natural beauty, and the wealth of cultural richness. It’s no bed of roses for those who live there, however.
My eyes were neither blind nor my ears deaf to the challenges facing people and their lack of hope for the future. I was a guest in these countries and feel it would be presumptuous to remark about the political or economic situation, or try to see the future. Lord knows there are plenty of people doing that already. I’ll keep to matters of the heart.
To show my thanks and respect for Bosnian people and their culture, I will continue to sing sevdalinke as authentically as I can. Is that going to change the world? No, but I hope that for an hour or two, over the course of an evening’s concert, we can escape our problems together on the wings of song. Perhaps we can soften some of life’s rough edges. Certainly, music and community are needed more than ever with the world’s increasing strife.
With the board members of Sevdah North America, I will continue to support community efforts to keep this cultural treasure alive among Bosnian communities in the Diaspora, as well as share it with the general public. Sevdah is a link to Bosnian heritage for children growing up far from Bosnia, a solace for elders and window into the richness of Bosnian culture for non-Bosnians.
So, to all the people who help me along the way, thank you for teaching me about music, friendship and strength. Thank you for allowing me to be a guest in your countries and homes. Thank you for your generous and warm hospitality. You have given so much more than I can ever return.