EDIT BY: SLAVICA MOMAKOVIĆ
The power of the beauty of music, the human voice and the written word are immeasurable, and there are no limits to them. They always find their way to us, so we often remain silent in front of them.
This sublime harmony of the elements is fundamental to the work of the world-renown writer, Natasha Bartula. Her love of writing, music and singing are constantly intertwined, and never end with the same strength in her artistic being. More recently, she recorded a beautiful song Moj pedalj zemlje (In the palm of my homeland) named after her novel of the same name. Natasha’s singing is refined, inspired by an angelic soprano voice, accompanied by her brother Boris Bartula, who played and arranged the production. Boris Bartula is a music professor who sings exceptionally, plays the piano and accordion, and composes, arranges and produces music, and has accomplished many works. He is the conductor of choir Biseri (Pearls) in Montreal. Natasha Bartula will talk about the musical project that they recently began and its content, followed by the memories of her childhood and citations from her literary works. You will revel in discovering the true meaning of eternal love of brother and sister. You will discover what great splendor and spiritual strength adorn this brilliant artist.
Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.
There are many deep and sincere loves in my life, but only two are true passions: the passion for writing and the passion for music. Both come from the same source that inspires us and gives us the creative power of mind on a path chosen and written for us somewhere in the universe. It is this creative power that gives the artist the wings to endure everything, even when through many difficult times. The work of an artist is a work of love and sacrifice. A constant struggle on a path covered with thorns, but illuminated by the stardust we long for. It is work that requires the whole being and soul. It is a mission. The way I give myself when I write, I give myself exactly the same way when I sing. With the same depth, passion and desire for every word to deeply touch the soul of the reader or listener. I write as I sing, I sing as I write, and I live as I write and I sing.
Although I had a talent for both music and literature since childhood, I decided to study literature, and for many years I pushed music aside. I was a choir soloist in elementary and high school. People from the world of stage noticed me and offered me offers to record. But my path was intertwined with other factors that prevented me from taking music more seriously. When the war knocked on the door, it was important to survive. The song became silent and left the whistle of grenades and bombs instead of notes. Then the exile began, leaving Bosnia for Serbia, where my brother Boris had been leaving for many years. He worked as a musician with his band and also as a music teacher at Ivanjica High School.
The only thing that was important for my parents and us in those days of fear and uncertainty was family: to be together, to ignore material losses, to care for each other and see the true values of life. To persevere and fight for a better future.
In order to emphasize and explain my love and passion for music, I must first of all express my gratitude to God. Because, after all, nothing we have is final and does not belong to us completely. We must always be deeply aware of what has been given to us and make an effort to justify our talents and our life mission. To tailor life tasks and goals according to our predispositions. I must also emphasize my love for my family, for my father, a musician, and for my mother, an educator, and for my brother, a musician, because all these factors make for a coherent and unbreakable inspiration for every step of life and every note I sing.
Mother Novka brought me into the world in the school library. My mother's boundless talent and love for literature awakened in me a zeal for the written word, that over time turned into a flame of desire to create my own literature.
I grew up in the arms of my father Marijan, a musician, with his sweet voice singing about love, with my uncle's violin, and with the sound of my father's guitar whose tones over time turned into a clear message: the notes on which my life began became guides on my life’s path, on which I use the heritage I have acquired: honesty and humanity. This is the greatest wealth of the soul in striving for the harmony of life in the light.
Everything that is most beautiful grows not only from joy but also from painful experiences, and makes us nobler, better, and more spiritual. This is best evidenced by quotes from my first novel, Refugee Tears:
Spring 1992. It is early in the morning, five o'clock. The sun is slowly rising up, bathing the mountains and fields with its golden rays. Everything looks so heavenly beautiful and peaceful that, for a moment, I could forget reality. Yet, in an instant, the smell of burned houses brings me back, and the picture that I am exposed to is one that I will hold and remember for the rest of my life; it's the one that will change me forever. With every burned house that I see, something in my soul is burned: the joy of my youth, my enthusiasm for life, the love, confidence, and trust that I had for my people, for my nation is gone forever. I see the columns of refugees passing by old women wiping their tears silently, thinking of their sons who are somewhere in the front lines. Young women trying to calm their children who are crying, suddenly awakened from their peaceful sleep and forced to march.
I am wiping with my sleeves bus windows still-fogged from the morning dew, and rubbing my tired eyes in disbelief watching the scene from which I feel the pain that goes to the back of my head creating a strong sharp pain that reminds me I am awake, and the sight that I see is not just my dream.
I am suffocating from fear that tightens my throat. I feel that I don't have enough air, while large drops of sweat wet my forehead. The musty odor on the bus mixed with the stench of cigarette smoke makes me feel sick, choking me up more.
I will die if I don't breathe fresh air, I am thinking while my heart is pounding in a panic attack. I open the window in order to get some fresh air, but instead of freshness the smell of smoke from burnt houses is stinging my throat and eyes.
Suddenly I hear the cry of a young woman, “Hurry up, my son. Don't stop, and don't cry. There is no time for it. Don't look at the house. Don't turn around. It is useless. Hurry to catch up with the column or they will leave without us. Move quickly. I am scared we will get killed.”
But the little boy doesn't hear the mother's plea. He is standing silently not moving, with his eyes fixed on the burned remains of what, until this morning, were warm and comfortable homes. He looks so vulnerable in his blue pajamas and small brown rain boots on backwards, wiping his tears with a little white plush bunny.
The fear for the little boy makes me forget my own fear, and the only thing that I think of in this moment is wanting to help and reassure him.
“Hurry up little boy,” I am screaming through the window. You will come back one day. Go now. Run as fast as you can.”
As if my voice brought the little boy back to consciousness, he raised his head, reached out to his mother, and ran with the stuffed bunny in his hand to reach the column.
As the bus was slowly leaving, I lost sight of the column and village. But the memory of this morning has never left my soul.
The moment of reunion in exile with Boris in Ivanjica confirmed the meaning of life and the importance of the struggle for the family. At that moment, one of my songs, At that moment, a new life is born, was written. The song will be included in my music project I am currently working on with Boris. The following quote from Refugee's Tears speaks best about that moment of reunion:
At that moment, my brother's and my eyes met, and time stopped completely. He stopped singing. People stopped talking. We were in each other's arms, completely speechless. As we were standing firmly embraced, the crowd around us seemed to not exist anymore. It was just my big brother and me. I was again a little girl, safe and happy with my Boris. I closed my eyes and saw myself running barefoot on the soft meadow of our childhood along with my brother jumping as high as we could, laughing as loud as only happy children can laugh.
My music project will include my personal compositions as well as arrangements of some of the old hits such as Dušo moja (You are my soul) and Kad umre ljubav (When love dies) by Kemal Monteno; Sve smo mogli mi (We could do anything) by Jadranka Stojakovic, and a couple of gentle Bosnian sevdalinkas: Tebi majko misli lete (My thoughts fly to you mother); Kada moja mladost prodje (When my youth passes); Emina. There is also the Sephardic musical pearl Adio kerida, as well as my translation of the Greek song Ne ljuti se oko moje, (Don't get angry my sweetheart), and the sad Macedonian classic about youth passing by fast Zajdi, zajdi jasno sunce, (Turn of shiny sun). Also, some ethnic songs from Serbia: Bela vilo (White fairy); Marije, bela Marije (Mary, white Mary) and one of the most beautiful compositions from Montenegro: Još ne sviće rujna zora (The dawn is not dawning yet) as well the Dalmatian gentle melody Noćas mi se snilo (Tonight I dreamed). I also intend to add the indispensable Romany anthem Gelem, gelem, lungone dromensa (I went, I went on long roads). So, the project will present everything that I am: from pop music, gentle Bosnian sevdalinka, to ethnic music. The diversity of genres also presents my cultural and spiritual heritage; respect for all nations, love for the former Yugoslavia in which I had many happy moments before the war, as well as love for my Bosnia that gave birth to me.
I recently posted a song on Youtube that I named after one of my novels, Moj pedalj zemlje (In the palm of my earth). The song is a gift to the country and the sky under which I was born.
It took me many years to gather my courage to appear in public. I somehow always instinctively left that first place to my brother, which is natural, because he is the one who followed in his father's footsteps from childhood. He started playing the accordion at the age of five. He graduated from the Sarajevo High School of Music and then graduated from the Sarajevo Academy of Classical Music, where he met many musical styles: classical, traditional, jazz, etc. For many years, Boris taught music in Ivanjica in the local high school and, in addition to working at the school, played professionally with very well-known groups in the former Yugoslavia. After arriving in Montreal in 1995, Boris founded a group called Les Gitans de Sarajevo in which he was the lead singer, keyboardist and accordionist. Instinctively, he felt the Quebec audience's desire for a new, mysterious rhythm from the Balkans, and he sailed into the tones of Roma music, which he adapted to the Montreal jazz style. This approach simply intoxicated Montreal and Quebec, and he obtained great success giving concerts across Canada. Boris composed and arranged all the songs, and he made five albums with this group. As a multilingual singer, who sings in Serbo-Croatian, Romani, English, French and Russian. Boris is a fantastic animator with an enchanting stage presence. In the last two years, he has dedicated himself more to independent work and creation, and from this came his new album Sarajevo. Boris personally composed all the compositions and wrote most of them. The song Bila jednom jedna zemlja (Once upon a time there was a country) is on Youtube and is slowly winning the hearts of a wider audience. The other melodies such as the song Sarajevo or Trumpet, Sevdah, Emina, Danuška etc. are also quite beautiful. Each one in its own way penetrates the soul. They are all a stamp of Boris’ inexhaustible talent and dedication to music. A stamp of the beauty of Boris’ soul, love, humanity and sacrifice that he shows in every field, giving himself fully both as a musician and as a single father of his fifteen-year-old son Sacha. Otherwise, Boris sees artistic creation as an eternal project in which the most subtle ideas can beautify the downstream river of life. As a multi-talented musician, he regularly plays on the Montreal music scene (Francofolies, Montreal Jazz Festival). Boris has also participated in several TV programs, including: Belle & Bum – Télé Québec – 2005 – 2007; La Symphonie du Nouveau Monde – ARTV-2008; and in the ensuing RTV Canada documentary.
Boris's group Les Gitans de Sarajevo was nominated for the Canada Juno Music Awards in 2005 for the album En voyage. The group won the 2006 Galaxy MMM Star Award at the MMM Festival. They were also finalists for the 2007 Canadian Folk Music Award in the category of Best Music Artist in the World Music category.
Boris diligently continues his creative path with new ideas and new projects on the horizon. I am immensely grateful to my brother who, in the time that he has little or almost nothing, still singles out some moments and dedicates them to me. It is an indescribable joy and blessing to create with a being with whom I shared a happy childhood and many other less happy moments in life such as exile and the first days of immigration in Canada. All these experiences – both painful and happy, as well as the values we gained from our parents – are woven into this brother-sister relationship, which over time has become unbreakable. This project emerges from our past experiences as the crown of our respect and love. This sisterly love is best described in a passage in my new novel Dubrovnik, grad Nabožićki, (Bosnian Medieval Dubrovnik) in which I describe the love of the noblewoman Paula for her brother, the knight Miltos. It is a true metaphor for my love for Boris.
In Paula there was the heart of a sister and mother of centuries-long tormented people. The hearts of women bent in a ball of love and loyalty to the family. Women, who love their neighbors, their mother, their father, their brother, their children and their homeland in the dimensions of eternity, like a silk thread on a tie. With the intention to pass on this love from generation to generation, from age to age. To survive through suffering and through wars as an eternal symbol of the strength grown out of the great-grandmother of the victim and witness of a cruel time. To serve future generations as a great-grandmother on Noah's ark who saves nobility and love from evil. Paula's love contents the blood of her great-grandmothers: one who resented bloody centuries and harsh times, who believed in the victory of good, which sprang from the blue Slavic sky above Nabožić mountain. A love that gives strength to those who give up, who do not believe, who are tired and faint. Love that makes sense, because it brings meaning to life. Consolation in gloom and misery. This love finds its strength, source and root in another dimension, and therefore it seems as if it is not from this world where evil reigns. By force, it sometimes looks like a storm that throws foam on the shores and rolls heavy ships like walnut shells. It hurts and tears, reminding at the same time of the birth pains, but also of the smile of the mother when she touches the face of the newborn baby. Sisterly love is a mission that pushes and deepens the boundaries of human feelings whispered into the nothingness of the short life of a human being. Although she has her own feminine world, embroidered with silk threads of the most tender feelings, the sister with her emotions instinctively plunges into her brother's spirit, heart and soul. It stays there forever curled up like a brother’s echo with a third eye caring for a brother. And it is precisely her third eye, although invisible, that sees everything and follows it even when it is behind in the distant imagined horizons. Like blood in the veins, her love murmurs like the murmur of clear water, tirelessly.