Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May, 2016 

Živojin Prerad, somewhere in Hungary, May 2016
Finishing my breakfast in Vienna, at Tamara’s and Michael’s place, I was getting ready to drink coffee on the terrace and slowly preparing for an afternoon drive to Belgrade. Four passengers had booked a place in the van that day. The phone rings. Bea tours. My Natašica says Mr. Alen Ilić called for his wife and himself. The problem is that nobody wants to drive them as they have 10-odd artworks. Just because nobody wanted to, I wanted to. So that day, around 5 pm, I met the sympathetic couple and we set off to Belgrade, they to Irig. Both intellectuals (that was my first thought): jeans, sneakers, light shirts. She is smiling, calm, quiet. He is very communicative, straightforward. It turns out, through the conversation, that he is from the world of music, painting... He has studied at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade. He composes, performs and teaches around the world. Also joining us in conversation was our magician who lives in Vienna; on a break somewhere in Hungary, he leaves us breathless with a few tricks. I leave Milica and Alen in Irig, and from that moment they remain in my heart. Was this an ordinary drive or I might have made new friends? I've often thought about them.
May, 2017 

Dragičica tells me that Mr. Alen Ilic has called, and that he would like with Milica to return with me from Vienna, this time, to Belgrade. My heart was pounding with happiness, joy, elation. They remembered me after a year, and I will see them again. They're waiting for me outside the hotel. They wave to me as they saw me. I'm getting out of the van, I approach them and we hugged and kissed warmly, as if we know each other a lifetime. This is it. Luckily, this time I was right. I think I've made new FRIENDS. We started the drive to Belgrade. After briefly recounting the adventures of the past year, as we hadn’t seen each other, we settle into serious conversation. This time, while driving, I'm totally focused on Alen's story about college, music, life, work that he does, the problems he encounters, and the commendations, awards received from the world's most renowned critics in the field. Slowly putting the pieces together into a mosaic, I start to realize who the man sitting behind me, relaxed, truly is. Is it possible that I overlooked at first sight, so I didn’t immediately realize what kind of human’s giant he is? The man whose music is taught at The University of New Hampshire, Department of Music, and with that same music he proudly and defiantly explains what they actually did to us in 1999. The man who, with his music, explains to Croats what really happened in Jasenovac, where his relatives from the father’s side were brutally murdered. He is completely calm and relaxed while he is telling me all these facts. I'm thinking while I'm driving, Well, I don’t know his surname. We make a short break. I've apologized and asked him whether his surname is Ilic. He laughed and said, many misses. ILIJIĆ. So close but so far. How one letter changes everything. Everything would be clear to me even on May, 2016 when we met. But never is too late. I asked him if he could give me his CD so I could try to understand what kind of music he composes. Of course, he said politely and took out a CD. While kneeling he wrote: ''To Dear Žile, with respect.

                        In conversation with Alen Ilijić, May 2016
I'd like to tell me your honest opinion when you listen, but I suggest you to watch the videos on Youtube. It's a big difference. It will be easier to understand.'' We started to drive again, and my eyes were filled with tears. What kind of FRIENDS I have – how an ordinary drive can change many things. I was lucky, but also luck should be earned. I am convinced that the happiness is mutual. They told me that they’ll spend the night in Novi Banovci at their godfather, and the next day they’ll go to Niš. Irig, Novi Sad, Niš, where next time? Eh, Serbia where you are. A world-renowned composer or, by my opinion, EINSTEIN in music, but a nomad. So this is the way you intend to keep young and smart. What to say? Simply NOTHING. That's why we are, where we are, repeating the same mistakes over and over. And as soon as I was alone in the van, I played the CD. Shock, disbelief. What is this music? I do not understand anything. I enter my apartment at 6 am and go right to the computer, to make sure once again: but now I will watch. Inputting ALEN ILIJIĆ and open a whole page. Clicked on his performance called ‘Ongevarfen (Disordered)’ in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is on the piano, relaxed but ram-like and sure of himself. He starts performing. At that moment a madness starts in my stomach, head and all over my body. I completely shudder. At one point I had identified myself with him. As if it was me. His VIRTUOSITY, movements, certainty, carried out from the soul and empathy with people from these events that befell our people (the bombing in 1999, Jasenovac). Incredibly! Einstein in music, simple, ordinary but enough ram-like to persevere in his intentions. Sure of himself, and sure he is right. I'm sure too. ALEN ILIJIĆ will enter in history (if not already) that he deserved with all so far mentioned qualities and with the idea he put in INDELIBLE WORK, amazing work which vehemently shook the whole world. By my opinion, MAESTRO has all his feelings out of his system and his ingenuity created something unexplained, so far. Our man from Irig, Novi Banovci, Niš... 

I proudly state, my friend, ALEN ILIJIĆ.
Big obeisance and respect.
Maestro, Genius and Bohemian.

Živojin Prerad, BEA Tours 

English translation and photos: Milica Ilijić
Lector: Rob Haskins