On his current tour of the United States, Goran Bregovic is performing music he has recorded with Gogol Bordello, Gipsy Kings and other gypsy musicians for release in February. Bregovic and his 19-member Weddings and Funerals Orchestra has stops at New York's Carnegie Hall (Oct. 19) and Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall (Oct. 26) before wrapping up in Siberia in November.
"We're playing quite a lot of music from this new album, which the second part of 'Alkohol,'" Bregovic says of the Universal Music album currently titled "Champagne for Gypsies." "It's a fun record, music for drinking and dancing. I recorded with gypsy musicians I respect, doing two songs with each of them. "
Bregovic, an electric guitarist from Sarajevo, had a successful rock career as the leader of Bijelo Dume in Eastern Europe from the mid-1970s up to 1985. He put rock music aside to embark on a film-scoring career at that point, working on celebrated projects with Emir Kusturica. His collaborations over the years have included recordings with Iggy Pop, Scott Walker and Cesaria Evora.
For more than a decade, Bregovic has led his Weddings and Funerals Orchestra, which brings together Gypsy brass players and percussionists, strings, a choir and two female Bulgarian singers.
"They're from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia -- all the southern Balkan states," he says of the touring band. "Some are highly educated -- my saxophone player is a professor at four schools -- and others are (self-taught). When I started to play, brass bands were usually family bands but that can be difficult, playing with your family. I just pick musicians I like."
Bregovic has been on tour with the band since early summer, arriving in the United States on Oct. 14 for 10 shows in North America. He says he hopes to return next year to do shows with performers who appear on "Champagne for Gypsies," among them the Romanian singer Florin Salam and the Swiss vocalist Stephan Eicher.
While the music is focused on life's more festive moments, Bregovic hopes a message of acceptance of gypsy culture comes through in the music as well. "Politicians have made gypsies a problem -- like Jews in 1936. They're being thrown out of Italy, thrown out of France. It's ridiculous."
"Charlie Chaplin had some gypsy blood," he continues. "Mother Teresa had a little gypsy blood. I don't think my position is far from that of intellectual -- a lot of people support my message."