“Basma”, the second album by the Serbian folk collective Vartra, deliberately looks far back into the past: the band draws inspiration from ancient South Slavic healing rituals and invokes folk traditions from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. The lyrics are based on traditional customs from these regions and place a special emphasis on incantations used for healing purposes. These incantations are called “basma” in the local language. Their special power lies in being able to dispel evil curses and evil spirits alike through suggestive rhythmic repetition.
The album was recorded in the house of Siniša Gavrić, the founder of the band, which he shares with his fellow musician Ivana Stošić.
Vartra was founded in 2017 by musician and singer Siniša Gavrić and sisters Ivana and Aleksandra Stošić. Dark folk, tribal, doom and electronic music combine here to form a unique, idiosyncratic mixture. Musically, the seven band members are influenced by Slavic folk music and shamanic drum traditions from North America. The lyrics are performed in Wallachian, Serbian and Macedonian. The Wallachians, by the way, form a national minority in Serbia, originating mainly from the eastern Serbian mountain region. The band’s style is described by critics as “doomy neo Slavic folk”.
“This project Vartra is a result of our constant arguments. The darker Sinisa gets with this project, the more I try to make it lighter. Where we really come together is in our pathos and musical moments of catharsis,” says Ivana Stošić in an interview about the background of the creative process. And adds: “Honestly, our creative work is a kind of musical struggle. Our writing process is literally just building something up and destroying it, then building it up again and taking it apart and so on until we finally have a song we can agree on.”
Vartra play on handmade drums and rattles made by Siniša Gavrić himself. These instruments are made from animal skins from around the world, as well as wood and other materials from the rivers and mountains of Serbia.
Over the past few years, the band has now evolved into a collective held together by its interest in world fusion music, Slavic paganism and spirituality. In addition to the band members, dancers are an integral part of the “Vartra Tribe” . Artist friends make the unique costumes, accessories and stage props for the live shows.
The debut album “Luna Nouà” was recorded in 2018 in a home studio in Belgrade and released in January 2020. The band has already performed at the Multimedia Arts Festival Dev9t (Serbia), Exit Festival (Serbia), Javorwood Festival (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Elysium Festival (Serbia).
Vartra’s live shows are a cathartic experience, reminiscent of healing ceremonies and often combined with dance interludes. “Vartra’s primal sounds speak directly to our inner rhythms and the lost wisdom of our ancestors that lies within us all,” writes the band.
Year of Release: 2022