Božo Vrećo is a singer, songwriter, and an artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina. His eccentric style which often combines dark clothing both for male and female, his tattoos, thick, black beard and hair make him often stand out of the crowd. And that is the moment when he isn’t singing. When you hear his voice, melody and the lyrics he sings, you ask yourself:“Where was he hiding so far?“
You are writing sevdah songs. How do sevdah lyrics differ from other genres and lyrics from today?
They have a special emotive touch and tragedy which mesmerized me when I entered sevdah. I try to keep them mystical enough, but yet to tell a story which is present in all of us. The factor of identification and cognition is key, and in every song I do tell a story about myself – it wouldn’t be trustworthy and honest without it. The voice which sings about the love, pain and melancholy, about separation and longing, not being able to get over – that is my sevdah.
In your visual identity there are various gender variables combined with tradition which are present. In which cultures do you find inspiration for your visual expression?
Every folk which has lived on the Balkans inspires me, you can sense this influence of Muslims and Sephardies, orthodox Christians and Turks, everything shaped me and I find my identity in everything. I am a believer, and I believe in love, have respect for every religion and there is a bit of me in each and every one of them. However, I am appalled by “fakeness” in faith and people, and I try to answer the question of religion by saying that it is my task to praise the Lord and thank Him, everything else is unimportant. I was born as a man and a woman and therefore I live that life as a free person, which can be felt in my temperament, voice, visual representation and thinking. I have accepted myself with my whole being and the world would be such a better place without all the hating, when everyone would just accept themselves and be what we are. People love my honesty in all of its aspects and that is why my shows are sold out, my voice takes them over and frees them, as my freedom is both physical and thoughtful, it demystifies their questions and doubts, helping them to courageously step forward in something which is truly theirs. That makes me happy.
Besides the thick black beard and hair, traditional Balkan and Bosnian jewelry, you do not hide your tattoos. Can you point out your most precious ones and reveal the meaning behind them?
From the ones which glorify the Lord and to the ones that connect me to the tradition of Bosnian women from Bihać who used to tattoo themselves up to their elbows, on their fists, chest, leaving symbols of little crosses and twigs to protect them from slavery during the Ottoman Empire and the evil forces which would test them. I have the bridal ones which are against spells, thunder and sickness. These symbols are to me, as a master of archaeology, very important because they represent a group of unidentified shapes engraved into stećak stones. I am lead by the thought of researching something new, decoding hidden symbols and finding a link between myself and them. All of my tattoos are mystical, such as the seraphim wings on my back, angels who have six sets of wings and sing to God in heaven.
You have started a solo career. With which songwriter/singer would you like to cooperate, and where would you like to perform?
All of my wishes from that domain are coming true. I am looking forward to cooperating with Vasil Hadžimanov and Miroslav Tadić.
What is the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding music; is there improvement in genre and songwriting?
There exists everything, but everyone is giving their best. Today you have an audience for good and the ugly, and everyone calls themselves artists, unfortunately. However, that is always singled out, and you know who is the commercial puppet and who is a real artist not letting be taken for granted and used. I am living my art and constantly create, I have no time to fight battles against egocentric pigs. Currently, I am writing my second book and waiting for my fourth album “Pandora” to be published in Bruxelles. My focus is on that, therefore I have distanced myself from everything bad that can harm me. I create and I am happy.