Our tale begins, romantically enough, underneath the flickering festoons and tented towers of a circus. Faith was working with traditional English troupe Giffords Circus as an all-singing all-dancing accordionist act. Her creative cause took her to the Balkans to seek a local Romani violinist to join the circus’ next tour. Fate and fortune led her path to the Serbian village of Grabovica and to the violin maestro Branko. Without a shared language with which to communicate, the two friends played and composed music for three months – passionately, but purely platonically. Faith returned home and for the next two years continued her separate musical career – touring, playing, performing across the world. Yet something niggled, a sense of unfinished business, a sense of love lost but never quite had.
As Branko grew older, his problems had intensified, reaching a point where he tried to take his life – he was not able to care for his diabetes as he should and would go to the woods and pray for God to help him find a way out of his darkness. He never lost the goodness of his heart and the infinite beauty he felt in God and his violin; and when Faith finally returned to Serbia, this love and gratitude were poured into their light-hearted composition ‘Fa Di Do’. The song ‘Gypsy Lover’ details the couple's mixed emotions two weeks into the relationship - Branko strong in his belief that his prayers had been heard but unwilling to draw Faith into a situation that he felt she would grow to regret; Faith falling fast for her beau but hesitant to commit to what she predicted could be a very complicated partnership.
Their love and their music held them together. They lived together in Serbia through a minus thirty-degree winter, cooped up inside the house writing music all day, getting to know each other, experiencing their cultural differences. It was a time of simple young love and creativity, but also of insecurity surrounding their future – visa restrictions forced them to spend periods of time apart and embark upon a four-year struggle before they could live in the UK together. ‘Valjevo’ is their diary entry from this time. Branko’s pre-existing health problems were worsened by the biting cold and times were hard. On this track, lamenting violin dances with surging piano pirouettes before Faith’s vocal takes centre stage. Branko’s violin tone, all split-notes and throaty tessitura, closes the emotional elegy.
The date for a wedding was set. Jannah, who is like a sister to Faith, came to visit as remembered in the song ‘Sister’. This largely raucous track riots with breakneck tempo, topsy-turvy accordion and a fire-cracker violin solo. Jannah arrived in the midst of an intense and seemingly crazy time in the local village but supported Faith, whom she could see was madly in love. The wedding was a traditional affair complete with pony trap and boisterous Balkan brass band and Branko, defying the curses put on him to never marry, made it from the hospital on the morning of the wedding to stand beside his bride.
‘Prozac’ documents Faith’s momentary identity crisis when she realised her ‘Englishness’ would always set her apart from her new beloved Balkan family. The track oozes good humour and is set to a lilting reggae beat infused with a distinct Roma twist. ‘Right Road’ remembers one particularly eventful lift Faith was given back to England with an untrustworthy acquaintance. ‘Faith i Branko’ is a traditional number sung in Romanes to wish the happy couple good luck.
Slowly things began to improve: the Balkan media, intrigued with their story, began to seek them out; Branko came to join Faith in the circus show and on a tour of Australia with antipodean Balkan band Lolo Lovina. ‘Sydney Swing' was part-written in the city of the same name and finished by a joyous Branko upon his return to his village. ‘Bumbar’ was written in between rehearsals with the circus. Here Branko’s formidable composition canters from contemporary to classical violin vernacular with dazzling display. The expressive track ‘Rose’ is another Branko speciality – as a boy raised by his gran and aunt, he left school after four years and spent his early life with his violin in his hand creating his own mixture of music. His violin was his trade, but also his connection to an energy that would enable him to survive through anything. ‘Rose’ was written at this time and is devoted to a young girl of the same name. The track has epic, almost cinematic qualities, and is sprinkled with the hum and twitter of birdsong.
Today Faith i Branko are proud to present their debut album to the world. This couple’s love has overcome the odds: their honest music speaks their story.