(I originally wrote this review on February 18, 2009, in Sarajevo.)
On Sunday night, about 10,000 people braved the cold weather to attend “Gazu u mom srcu” (Gaza in my heart), a giant concert held to raise money for humanitarian relief in Gaza. It was such a large event, in fact, that it took place in Zetra, the Olympic stadium. The concert was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm, but people began filling the stadium over an hour in advance, and by 6:30 the hall was nearly full.The audience consisted of viewers of all ages, ranging from children to the elderly. The stage was beautifully set up, with white hanging lights and arches to the side of the stage. In the center was a screen, on which a slide show consisting of images from Palestine would be displayed throughout the event. On both sides of the screen were sets of high bleachers, which began to fill up just before 7:00.
Several choirs from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans were scheduled to participate in the event and they began to file onto the stage, taking their places on the bleachers to enthusiastic applause. The members of each choir were dressed alike, for example the women of Hor Kewser were dressed in shiny red and gold outfits. The instrumentalists took their places in front of the bleachers, and the soloists, narrators, and hafizi (those who had memorized the Qur’an, and would recite it during the event) sat in the middle, just under the screen. Shortly beforehand, I had seen the Reis ul-Ulema, Dr. Mustafa Cerić, and his wife arrive and take their seats in the front row.
The event started promptly with a recitation from the Qur’an. There are many hafizi (Arabic: Huffadh) in the Balkans who have been trained at the Gazi Husref-Bey madrasa. Some of them, such as Aziz Alili, Burhan Šaban, Senad Podojak, and Mensur Malkić, who all participated in the event, are also very popular singers of ilahije. After most of the recitations, a narrator read the Bosnian translation of the passages.
I was familiar with many of the singers there, but not all of them.Some of those less familiar to me were pop singers. A highlight of the event, in my opinion, was Hamza Raznatović’s (lead singer of pop band MacBeth) rendition of the well-known ilahije “Dosta mi je Allah moj” (My God is enough for me – see him singing this at a different event on Samaha’s blog). After hearing Burhan Šaban sing a song in Arabic at the beginning of the event, I hoped that he would later perform one of his own songs, and he did – “Dođi Najdraži” (Come, Most Beloved – see music video of this song here). I think he performed this song because it describes the Prophet’s return from the isra’ and mi’raj, part of which took place at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Slides of the structure were shown on the screen during the performance. Another highlight was Aziz Alili’s performance of “Šehidi” (Martyrs – see video of him performing this song here), a song that was popular in Bosnia during and after the war. I could see that many of the older people in the audience were deeply moved by the song. Interestingly, while the permissibility of musical instruments and female singers are hotly debated in many parts of the Muslim world, they appear to be non-issues here. The event ended with a brief speech and a du’a by Reis ul-Ulema Dr. Mustafa Cerić, and people began piling out of the stadium.
*Photo courtesy of Bosniaks News’ youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt4Jm–4kOM