Branislav Grbic teaches classical violin and world music violin. At the Shine School of Music in Barcelona, he teaches students of all levels, specializing in Balkan, Sephardic, Irish as well as Turkish music. He was born in Belgrade (Serbia) in 1970, to a family of musicians. In 1991 Bane arrived in Barcelona, and began a new era in his professional life. He was a notable student at the Conservatori Superior de Barcelona in J. Pamiès’s class and until 2002 he performed in 4 chamber orchestras and 3 symphony orchestras in Catalunya. He regularly plays with his band Los Moussakis. He has also collaborated with international artists such as Goran Bregovic, Rebecca Horn, Sara Montiel, Gloria Gaynor and Azúcar Moreno. We asked him some questions about his interest in music:
* What was the first thing that made you interested in music?
The fact that I was born into a family of professional musicians in the field of classical music, made me start very early learning the art of music, and later I dedicated myself to the violin for life as my work and passion.
My grandfather was a violinist, composer, choir and orchestra conductor, teacher, and theologian. Studying in Prague in the 1920s of the last century, and on his return to the homeland, he made a great reform in Serbian culture, dedicating his life to the prosperity of classical music in many fields. He has published 7 books on the violin methodology, the most famous “Zlatne Stepenice”. In 1954, the municipal music school of about 600 students in his hometown Valjevo was named after him “Zivorad Grbic”.
My father was also a violinist, concertmaster of the Belgrade National Opera Orchestra and professor at the Belgrade Higher Conservatory. My mother was an opera singer, two aunts were piano teachers and her children, my cousins, are also professionally dedicated to music.
I spent my childhood running through the corridors of the Belgrade National Opera building, from one dressing room to the other, then to the stage, orchestra pit, chicken coop, machinists, hairdressers… let’s say this building was my playground, along with endless trips with the whole company to European countries, Italy, France…
This was what made me interested in music, and stage art in general.
*Who inspired you to make music?
It was my parents who initially inspired me to make music. At home, music was heard at all hours, my mother singing opera and traditional songs, or my father playing and studying difficult passages of classical, symphonic, opera or chamber music…. We also had and listened to a very good record player, and the very extensive vinyl collection that is still preserved.
Then, at 16, I started playing as first violin, concertmaster, in a Young Symphony Orchestra of Belgrade, and the inspiration to make the music also came from the other 80 best young musicians in Serbia, who together played great musical works in concerts in the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia, including trips to other European countries.
* How would you describe the music you normally make?
I have had different stages in my life of exercising music. As a classical professional violinist, 18-33 years old, I have worked in numerous philharmonic, symphonic or chamber orchestras … Therefore it was an experience of making music already written, looking for textures and ensemble color, playing in the halls and auditoriums where the public is sitting and listening.
From 33-48 years old, I ventured into traditional-popular music from the Balkans, with Los Moussakis. This type of music is something very personal and different from what I did before. It requires another type of energy, presence and personal dedication in a group of only 6 people. Many times, there were no scores either, and therefore more freedom in expression, especially in solos, the atmosphere was very festive and danceable and the audience actively participated with the band.
At the moment, I’m very interested in “techno” electronic music, combined with real sounds and musicians, also in “mystical” and microtonal music… .. At home I am playing classical, balkan, klezmer, tango,… ..also, as I have many scores, sometimes I open any book and read it, I play… to discover that it is in the sea of notes. The excitement of translating written notes into live notes is very nice, which you see and hear the first time!
* What is your creative process ?
I’m really passionate about “turning” the songs. I use the traditional-folk songs of the Balkans and changed their speed, harmony and rhythm, giving them a new life in the different form of vertical musical arrangement. Let’s say I like to keep the old melody, with new elements “inside” in the structure. Many times, or almost always, in this creative process other musicians intervene with their knowledge and personal intuition.
* If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be?
I have had the opportunity to play with many musicians of international stature, such as Goran Bregovic. Collaborating with any musicians of this stature always carries a special magic and learning in different aspects. I would have liked to play with Stevie Wonder, without a doubt! I love the way violins treat their songs. Especially “My Cherie Amour” or “For Once in My Life”. I would also like to play with the Jamiroquai, the string arrangements are very danceable. Bill Withers, Quincy Jones … … there are many teachers. I would also be just as excited playing with a band of gypsies from Serbia or Macedonia in a few days long pantagruélica party, in the countryside! And the Berlin Philharmonic, I can’t even mention, it would be the best!
* If you could choose to open any musician’s show, whose would it be?
Maybe “Gogol Bordello”, “Kultur Shock” or Emir Kusturica & “No Smoking Orkestra”. Besides hoping that they invited me to play the gig with them, we would have a good party after the concert all together.
*Do you sing in the shower?
Yes, I sing in the shower, although before morning coffee it doesn’t sound very lively. Also, I always change songs… lately I’m with “Brother to Brother” by Gino Vannelli!
* Of your concerts, which one have you most enjoyed and why?
Ugh, it is impossible to highlight a specific concert. All the performances are a journey and experience of a set of things, absolutely unrepeatable. It is always enjoyed when there are good conditions to act, especially good sound and good vibration among the musicians. Each concert has a magical moment, and it is good to remember it. I think in music there is a fact that whenever you try to play a song in the same way, it never comes out the same, and it will sound different. It is the mystery of the unknown … is this version the best?
* Where would you like to do a concert?
I have had the opportunity to play with different formations on the most prestigious and beautiful stages, theatres and auditoriums in Spain and in other European countries.
Theatres, auditoriums, outdoor stages….But what would really be science fiction, and who wouldn’t enjoy it? To play in orbit, of course! When I started with the group Los Moussakis in 2002, one of my dreams was to play the New Year’s Eve 2024/25 on one of these space tourist flights. Surely the honor will be given to Brian Eno.
* What famous musicians do you admire?
Ugh, another question where I can’t give a concrete answer. I admire all musicians, good and bad, famous or not, boring and innovative, slow, fast… .All musicians are sometimes famous. I don’t know, to say one… ..Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is he famous?
* What has been the best advice you have been given?
There have been many tips received and well taken and digested, I’m still open to hear the odd tip that can lead one to practical wisdom.
* How do you think the internet has impacted the music industry?
I think that above all it has impacted the methods of selling music. Basically, now music is not sold in any physical medium. In the past, the musician also earned a continual bonus in the sale of CDs. K7s or vinyl were also objects that in themselves were art and reflected the style of music you found inside and added to the whole package. Downloading-buying a CD from some sales platform seems to me as if it had less weight …. I don’t know, I’m a romantic for these things …. hehe.
* If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?
From the point of view of a spectator and a musician, I think that in general, cities have too few small-medium spaces( with capacity for 50-150 people) for live music. The public and private sectors should come together to create subsidies for opening new spaces or expanding on local permits, this could provide sustainable work for an entire army of musicians and the various sector companies that work alongside live music in the area.
* Regarding the violin. Do you think it is a popular instrument today and why?
Yes, I think it is still a very popular instrument. There are public figures that still make it more popular, such as Ara Malikian. Also Anne-Sophie Mutter or Stephane Grappelli. My favorite violinist is David Oistrakh. Also the crazy violins of the Romanian fanfare bands, such as the Tarafs of Haidouks, have made the violin popular as an instrument. Violin has magic …. you have to work hard at it, but then it has a nice reward.
* Virtual teaching. Yes or no?
Of course a big yes! As long as it is combined with the face-to-face classes. Virtual classes take advantage of the student’s tranquility in their environment, they are less distracted or tired. Personally, with my students, I take advantage of these classes to work on “boring” things like scales, arpeggios or studies … At the moment, the double notes on violin, by the ZOOM, sound pretty bad. Another thing about virtual classes is that it is very important to have good electronic devices, or a quality external microphone and sound card.