Zabe i Babe
Zabe i Babe brings the music of the Balkans to America. The band features music drawn from Bosnian traditional and popular sources, include sharp and memorable Balkan vocal pieces, many of which can be found on Drumovi, the band's latest album.
I spoke to Donna Kwon, keyboardist and vocalist with Zabe i Babe. She has performed as a vocalist/percussionist at such venues as the
Metropolitan Musem of Art (NYC), San Francisco's Asian American Jazz Festival,
Stanford, and recently was a guest soloist with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. We spoke about the band's history, projects, and goals.
Paula: How and when did the band get together?
Donna: The band got together about six years ago as an experiment at
Wesleyan University's Music Dept. in Middletown CT. It was founded by
Sarajevo born, Mirjana Lausevic, ethnomusicologist. I joined the band
about four years ago through friendship and love for this intense
vocal music. The summer of 1997 we were at a music camp in Mendocino
hanging out with these Macedonian "Gypsy" Rom musicians the Ensemble
Teodosievski and it turned out they wanted to record with us on our
first debut CD, which Drumovi is the result. (Drumovi means "pathways"
Paula: What is it like performing Balkan music in America?
Donna: It has been a fascinating experience, that has generated a lot of
stories and adventures. With the exception of Mirjana, we are all
Americans from different backgrounds and our philosophy is not to
simplify or romanticize the music or what we are doing to but we are
trying to do justice to the complexity that the music of the former
Yugoslavia deserves. We have performed for many different audiences:
peace conferences, Balkan special interest groups, students at
university music departments, churches, festivals, community arts
centers and all of them are rewarding in their own way. It has been
particularly meaningful getting warm feedback from the former Yugoslav
immigrant community as well as from back in Sarajevo and we also enjoy
presenting a different side of what has been portrayed of Bosnia in
Paula: What is your live show like?
Donna: Our live show is usually divided between the a capella traditional
songs from the villages and urban areas around Sarajevo and the more
contemporary rock-tinged techno folk material of our second set. Our
shows tend to be very high energy and loud and not for the faint of
Paula: Who and what are your musical influences?
Donna: I think we all have different musical influences. What has been
particularly exciting for us at this stage is that we are now all
beginning to incorporate these influences into writing completely new
songs. We are all inspired by the raw and genuine energy of the
traditional music from the former Yugoslavia and strive to keep this
intact as we add influences from techno, punk, alt-rock, new music,
Paula: What are your goals as a band? What do you hope to achieve?
Donna:Our goals are to have good times together always and make decent
music. We want to raise awareness of the music of this region and make
it real in a way that works for all the members of our group.
Photo courtesy of Zabi i Babe.