Making music with others has been part of Nemanja Radulovic’s life since childhood, the ever-giving reward for those countless hours of solitary practice and the vexations of international touring. His passion for playing, so great that it could power the national grid, vanished overnight when the first pandemic lockdown was declared in his home city of Paris. The Serbian French violinist set his instrument aside and began to wonder whether he would ever take it up again. That was before he turned to Apple Music and discovered a world music playlist richly spiced with songs and dances from four continents. He also found solace in listening to almost everything that Mozart ever wrote. The old fire soon roared again, stoked by a new passion for folk fiddling and a recognition of the universal nature of songs and dances rooted in common human experience. Nemanja’s new listening habits took hold and grew into his first album for Warner Classics. Roots comprises 17 traditional pieces, recent folk compositions, and popular tunes that radiate from his homeland in the multi-ethnic Balkans to reach Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, India, Ireland, Japan, Russia, Scotland, and half a dozen other countries. Its message is clear: music knows no national borders, no boundaries, no limits of expression. He made the recording in company with his Double Sens ensemble, a band of cosmopolitan Franco Serbian musicians as at home in Bosnian folk song as they are in Bach’s violin concertos. “At the beginning of lockdown, I’d just finished a big tour with a Russian orchestra in Germany,” Radulovic tells Apple Music. “It was so different suddenly to be at home. I think it was the first time ever that I simply couldn’t play my instrument. I associate violin not just with the music but with collaborating with others. That connection gives such a huge meaning to the music.” While he lost the desire to play, he found time to listen and spent it wisely. Mozart and world music, he notes, allowed him to sense every shade of emotion. “This was my escape from the reality of COVID and a kind of filter. My professor in Paris, Patrice Fontanarosa, was so open-minded and always speaking about different types of music and culture. He taught me that art is connected to life.” Radulovic spent a month with his friend Aleksandar Sedlar, developing the technical skills and sensitivity required to shape authentic performances of pieces from a multitude of musical traditions. Sedlar’s background as classical composer and conductor, singer and guitarist with his own pop group, and theater music arranger gave the violinist confidence to build an album for Double Sens from scratch. “I spent more time on this project than any of my classical recordings,” admits Radulovic. “With a violin concerto or sonata, you always have the score and can just play it. Here, we had to research the pieces and arrange everything to suit our instruments.” The post-lockdown reunion with Double Sens, he adds, was a delight. “We’re like a musical family. What’s special about this ensemble is that if two people are unable to tour or give a concert, we don’t perform. Everyone’s really important there. It was so nice to meet again after lockdown and start with this project after a year apart.” The Double Sens team was joined by Ksenija Milošević, solo violinist and a former deputy leader of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra who has also performed in the Eurovision Song Contest and as a member of Serbian girl band Beauty Queens. “We’ve known each other since I was seven or eight,” says Radulovic. “I remember her as a little girl singing like an angel. I thought it would be great to have such a talent with us to explore classical music’s roots in world music.” Read on, as Nemanja Radulovic guides us through some key tracks on Roots. Hommage à Aleksandar Šišić “This is our opening track. I knew nothing about Aleksandar Šišić until the lockdown and found Apple Music’s playlist of traditional pieces. And suddenly, I heard these two violinists, the French Canadian Jean Carignan and the Serbian Šišić. They were totally amazing, so that’s why I wanted to pay homage to them on the album. We made a medley of the pieces of theirs that touched me the most. Šišić was an incredible player. He’s the fastest violinist I’ve ever heard, able to play so many notes every second. Normally, I’m not impressed by that, but his way of playing was magical because there was always a message and real music behind the speed. I wanted to do this homage to him not just because he comes from my country, but also to share with the world a genius of traditional violin playing.” Makedonsko devojče “Makedonsko devojče was written in the early 1960s by the Macedonian folk singer and composer Jonce Hristovski. The title means ‘Macedonian Girl.’ There’s a personal story behind it for me because I married a Macedonian girl! Kristina is a violinist with Double Sens. When I discussed the arrangement with Sedlar, I didn’t have in mind a duo for two violins. We tried it as a solo, but something was missing and I suddenly said, ‘Maybe we should do it with two violins.’ Sedlar asked me who the other violinist should be, and I thought of asking the leader of Double Sens. He said, ‘But why not with Kristina? She’s your wife and there’s a story behind this.’ We usually try to keep our professional and private lives separate. But I thought it would be a pity for us not to perform Makedonsko devojče together.” Mndra mja “This song comes from Vlachs, which is between Romania and Serbia. They have such a strong tradition, which doesn’t look like Romanian or Serbian culture. And they also have these stories about magic. Mndra mja is such fun to play and listen to. There are so many different versions of it—traditional, pop, and so on—and it’s very difficult for a singer who’s not from Vlachs to get the pronunciation. I remember Ksenija was learning the lyrics for several days. It’s on the album because it connects me to childhood.” Indifférence “I’m so thankful that we moved as a family to France during the wars in former Yugoslavia. We met such wonderful, generous people who made us feel that we belonged here. Our first connection with France was in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where we met fantastic people with whom we’re still in touch and are like family now. This shows that it doesn't matter from which side of the world you come—you can feel that you belong somewhere else. Indifférence is such a beautiful piece. I discovered it thanks to Guillaume Fontanarosa, who plays violin in Double Sens and who’s passionate about traditional music. He got me to play it a few years ago, and I thought it was so expressive—melancholic on the one hand, but with such passion and love on the other. That’s what this album is about.” Takeda Lullaby “I love Japanese culture and people. Until the lockdown, I’d visited every year since about 2004. And I have many friends there now and asked them what kind of song I could do on the album. Almost everyone said Takeda Lullaby would be a good choice because it reflects a tragic story on the one hand and a sense of peace on the other. We wanted to make the sound and expression of the koto, the traditional Japanese plucked string instrument. It was difficult because pizzicato on classical violin doesn’t sound right. We tried different ways, and I ended up using a guitar plectrum on the violin.” Mambo “Mambo was composed by Dámaso Pérez Prado­. Of course, Double Sens doesn’t have the strength of woodwinds and brass that Pérez Prado’s big band had. We tried to give his Mambo a different setup and expression. In places where a big band or symphonic orchestra would play fortissimo, we did completely the opposite, so we could have the most contrast in that song. I know that’s unusual, but it made us smile.” Što te nema “This is a beautiful Bosnian song. There’s a particular story about it because Ksenija, her sister Tijana [the leader of Double Sens], and I are connected by some family tragedies. ‘Što te nema’ means, ‘Why aren't you here?’ And this is the song’s refrain. When we rehearsed it in the studio before the recording, I remember the three of us with Sedlar were crying for 10 minutes—we couldn’t stop! This is such a natural way of telling a story in song, and it’s one of my favorites.” Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven “This is from the soundtrack to a popular Soviet-era film from the 1970s. We’ve been performing it at our concerts as an anchor piece for about five years now. And we wanted Ksenija to sing it on the album. The composer of this piece, Eugen Doga, is from Moldova and caught this mixture of sadness and incredible joy that you find in traditional music and culture throughout the Balkans.”

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