Slavo Rican Assembly use the international vocabulary of jazz as a springboard to delve deep into the sounds of their own musical roots. Bomba, salsa and rumba bump up against Slovenian harvest songs, Bosnian lullabies and Serbian laments in a musical cocktail that’s 100% New York.
From a young age, I have always been interested in the essence of things, in what things really are at their core - underneath and beyond all the categorization of divides…
Being born in Slovenia in the late 80s at the tail end of an era of the multi-ethnic ex-Yugoslavia, I might have (luckily) been too young to fully understand what was going on around me, but the dark catastrophes of war in our “brother republics” introduced a very bright and interesting plot change to my youth and to the everyday lives of our young family. Due to my mom’s selfless humanistic efforts to help our brother nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, fate had us cross paths with a young Bosnian family. After that point, the family’s two young boys and I grew up together between Slovenia and Sarajevo (after the war) and became sort of brothers in the process - not necessarily by blood, but definitely by spirit.
Ultimately, what the whole experience left me with most prominently was the complete antithesis of the said war, which is that all people are essentially the same, regardless of their background. Wherever we come from, we always have something in common, something at the very bottom of the core of our humanity.
Fast forward many years of studying music and my instrument of choice, saxophone, and here I am in New York City, spontaneously being drawn to Latin jazz music, performing steadily with the Fernando García group (Puerto Rican bomba jazz) and becoming an “adopted Puerto Rican” in the process, as well as playing with César Orozco’s Cuban-Venezuelan Latin jazz powerhouse band, Kamarata Jazz.
Through years of playing with Fernando’s group, and several tours of Puerto Rico and Slovenia with bassist Dan Martínez, we all came to realize the differences but also the numerous similarities we all had in our cultural baggage. Although we grew up in very different parts of the world geographically, we all felt a musical and interpersonal kinship from the first time we met.
So, what started as a joke with me introducing our groups as the Slavo Rican crew on our shows, started to make more and more sense in my mind as time went on, until I decided to act on it and get creative. I brought together the fabulous members of Fernando’s group (guitarist Gabriel Vicéns and percussionist Victor Pablo) with two highly esteemed South Slavic musicians, the Slovenian drummer Žan Tetičkovič and Serbian vocalist Aleksandra Denda. Add into the mix the prodigious Cuban pianist, Ahmed Alom, and I had created my dream band.
This album is a snapshot in time, and we hope that it, much like the cover image by our friend Vuk Nešić, communicates well the “intercosmic” nature of our, I dare to say “unique”, band: we are blending the catchy rhythms from the Caribbean, with the melancholic Pan-South Slavic musical heritage (we play songs from Slovenia, Bosnia and all the way to Prizrenska Gora). All the while we aim to stay true to our personal musical experiences and influences that shaped us, such as jazz, hip hop, rock, pop, funk, soul, electronic music and more, in an attempt to musically tie together the past, the present, and the future, and hopefully arrive at something universal, something “intercosmically” human. (Jan Kus)