Boris Kovac says that he is fortunate in that his music can drawn on the traditions of twenty different nationalities living in the Vojvodina area around his native town of Novi Sad. But it is not just that. Tradition is like a glove, most people wear it and sound exactly like everybody else who has worn that glove. Kovac is definitely playing Balkan music even when he is playing tangos, beguines and waltzes but you can feel his hand inside the glove pushing out and changing the shape.
I first listened to him because the title of one of his albums caught my attention. “The Last Balkan Tango” – where he asks the question: “Just imagine there is only one starry night left till the end of this world… what would we do?” The music is his answer.
In the liner notes, the music is compared to an Orient Express which “travels according to the following itinerary: … Budapest-Szeged-Novi Sad-Sofia-Istanbul.” It is a nice idea, but I don’t see any clear timetable to tell us when we are getting to these places and I don’t notice any clear progression. In fact the train may actually be stranded somewhere and not moving at all, but the most noticeable thing is that you are inside a compartment which is crowded with people from all these places and others, all making a lot of noise, but with Kovac doing most of the talking, which is good, because he has a lot to say and he has that ability few people have of making your spine tingle from time to time.