One doesn’t need to know Balkan music to be moved by the soulful, joyous intensity of a performance by singer Eva Salina and accordionist Peter Stan. While Balkan music is sometimes associated with loud brass bands and wild dance parties, Salina hopes to create a smaller, more intimate experience at the group’s performance Saturday in Davis.
Salina, a Santa Cruz native, has a history of falling for music in a language she couldn’t understand. At age seven, Salina received a tape of Yiddish music and ended up learning every song. Her parents couldn’t find her a local Yiddish vocal teacher. Instead, they stumbled across a Balkan music specialist from Hawaii who became Salina’s teacher. She has been hooked since.
Balkan music contains aspects of Flamenco, Klezmer and European folk. Salina, who has worked with the music for over 25 years, has performed for audiences of all different levels of familiarity – from Balkan music experts to those who have no idea what to expect.
“When I have the opportunity to present these songs to the people for the first time, it’s an extraordinary privilege,” Salina said. “I try to show how accessible it is, not by watering it down, but by highlighting the beauty of the melodies and the universality of the human experience that’s reflected in the text.”
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Within Balkan music, there is plenty of room for exploration. The concert will feature music sung in four languages: Řomanes, Serbian, Macedonian and Romanian. While Salina has recorded Balkan music with a pop twist in her work, “Lema Lema,” this concert will be more traditional: just voice and accordion.
In such an intimate setting, Salina’s resonant voice floats over the expressive, playful sounds of the accordion. Stan, who plays a distinct style influenced by his childhood in Serbia and 30 years as a New York City freelancer, weaves in and out of the musical forefront.
Salina compares Balkan music to country music in terms of the substance and meaning behind the lyrics.
“We’re all born, we all fall in love, many of us have children. Most of us have our hearts broken at least once,” Salina said. “People all around the world sing about it.”
For this performance, the audience will be treated to an especially authentic performance of this Eastern European music, featuring singer Vida Pavlović. Singing with a single accompanist is the “simplest way to perform and convey (the songs) without taking away their essence,” said Salina.
“We strip everything down like it was 3 a.m. in the morning in the Balkans,” Salina said. “Someone would start playing accordion and people would start singing. There’s nothing artificial about a voice and an accordion playing these songs together.”
When: Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Village Homes Community Center, 2661 Portage Bay East, Davis
Cost: $15 in advance, $18 at the door