Most musicians only ever dream about performing at New York’s Carnegie Hall, but Montenegro’s Guitar Duo, Srdjan Bulatovic and Darko Nikcevic, are about to make it a reality. They took time out of their schedule to sit down with #mnetoday and talk about this amazing achievement, their new albums, passion for music and inspiration.
#mnetoday: What made you first pick up the guitar and who influenced you?
SB: I was interested in the guitar from a young age. It was extremely popular in pop music back then, and there wasn’t a single song that didn’t have a guitarist playing alongside the singer. While I was interested in the guitar even before elementary school, the decision to play it professionally only came about later when I heard some of the most beautiful compositions written for the guitar, such as Love Serenade, Asturias, and Memories of the Alhambra. That was when I started focusing my attention on it.
DN: My first encounter with a guitar was when I was six years old at the music school in Podgorica. I fell in love with the guitar through local music and also international rock and pop, which I used to listen to throughout my childhood. Much later I discovered the great, but now unfortunately deceased, Paco de Lucia, whose artistry I still admire and draw inspiration from.
#mnetoday: Your albums reflect the spirit of Montenegro. What was the idea behind the albums Ritmico and Synergy?
SB: After a decade of studying and playing guitar, my repertoire consisted of solo recitals, chamber music and symphony orchestras. However, playing in a guitar duo introduced me to entirely new and unknown music – songs from film, flamenco, and a fusion of various styles. All of these serve as inspiration for our compositions, which are primarily inspired by the folklore of Montenegro. In our music you can feel the influence of classical guitar but with a modern twist from styles like rock, pop, and flamenco. This fusion of different guitar styles is reflected in these two albums, Ritmico and Synergy.
DN: Our albums are created when have enough original songs to work together, and the common theme of these compositions is what gives the album its name. In the case of Synergy, it is that everlasting musical thread that connects musicians who play together, and in the case of Ritmico, it is the rhythm of each song.
#mnetoday: What does your new release, The Best of Montenegro, mean to you? Any favourite tracks?
SB: The album, The Best of Montenegro, is written as a concerto for two guitars and a string chamber orchestra. It is inspired by Montenegro’s most beautiful songs, which are adapted for the guitar almost as if they were written for it. Each composition is different and distinct, making it hard to have one favourite.
DN: The Best of Montenegro is made up of compositions that were inspired by the traditional music of Montenegro. We wanted to combine them together into a concerto as a gift to Montenegro, celebrating its 10th anniversary of independence. It’s hard to choose one single composition because each has its own beauty and meaning.
#mnetoday: Which guitarists should players study and learn from?
SB: I listen to guitarists of many different styles and musical genres, and I can learn a lot from each of them. If we’re talking about guitarists who play in a similar style to me, then it is certainly the most famous guitarist, Paco de Lucia – he is an incredible and unique performer who excels in jazz, flamenco and classical music.
DN: Modern guitarists need to learn from their successful colleagues and not be influenced by just one genre. They should never stop learning as this is what will develop their style and authenticity.
#mnetoday: Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
SB: The ideas come spontaneously. If I decide to write a new composition, it will not happen when I want it to. Inspiration comes unexpectedly. I practice a new piece and get ready to record it, but in the middle of practicing other ideas begin to form and a new song is created in my head. In situations like this I can write new music in one day. In contrast, sometimes I can’t write a song for months.
DN: I never look for inspiration, inspiration always finds me in moments of improvisation – my fingers lead me to create new music. Sometimes compositions take months and years to perfect, other times they are created in just a few days.
#mnetoday: Tell me more about your upcoming tour and plans for the next year.
SB: The most important concert of my career is happening soon – on the 18th of October we play in the most famous concert hall in the world, Carnegie Hall in New York. After that we play in the CNP in Podgorica, then in Dubai on the 2nd of November, and Munich in March next year. In the meantime, we are also negotiating other concerts at home and abroad.
#mnetoday: Srdjan, your work in musical education is based on empirical principles, why did you choose this way of teaching?
SB: As the first guitarist to graduate academically, I founded the Guitar Department at Podgorica’s Vasa Pavic music school in 1994. Every day I was testing myself and learning, I was both professor and student. Of course, that was important when I started, and today after 22 years of teaching, everything is much easier and different. These are generations and generations of guitarists who have passed through my classes. This along with playing in concerts has had an impact on my development.
#mnetoday: Darko, how did your interest Electrical Engineering turn into a passion for flamenco guitar?
DN: My interest in electrical engineering is not related to the guitar, and it began in primary school. It lasts to this day, although in recent decades I have focused on audio technology because of my love for music.
#mnetoday: Through your books, concerts and festivals, you have contributed a great deal to promoting the guitar in Montenegro. Based on this, do you feel that the guitar is popular among the younger generation and the Montenegrin audience in general?
SB: I hope that some of our work – whether on a compact disc, a textbook or a concert – will inspire the younger generation to love the guitar. These days you can find almost everything there is to know about the guitar on the Internet, even how it is made. However, only a few people are interested in it.
#mnetoday: Are there any tips you’d like to share with other musicians out there?
DN: The important thing is to listen to yourself and do what you enjoy. If you do, then it is easy to find enough time, determination and enthusiasm. Also, while support from others is important, it is more important to support yourself.
#mnetoday: Thank you for your time Mr. Bulatovic and Mr.Nikcevic. We wish you good luck at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and looking forward for your next performance in Montenegro.