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  • Writer's pictureThe Sound Cafe

Bosnian Cellist & Vocalist Lakiko Releases Debut Album 'What To Do, How To Live?'

What To Do, How To Live? is Lakiko’s debut album and is sung almost entirely in Bosnian using a vocal technique from the Sevdalinka tradition. A piece of experimental performance, the artistic vision was drawn out of a period of deep contemplation, looking backwards, reflecting on the modern Balkan experience, her growing up in Sarajevo, and the scars and hardships that city and people have had to endure and thinking about how their future will unfold.

The first song to be released is Ovce, and is to be understood as a prognosis that doesn't want to be fulfilled. The intention is to disturb - and it is about the final extermination of Bosnian Muslims and their ignoring of that reality

The accompanying short film, Lakiko – A Hybrid Idea, directed by German director Manfred Borsch was shot in various locations in and around Sarajevo and has won awards including Best Director at Stockholm City Film 2022 and was publicly released March 2023.

Now residing in Lucerne, Switzerland and having trained as a classical cellist in Bremen and the University of Arts in Bern, Lakiko AKA Lana Kostić created her sonic world with the assistance of the neurology department in Biel. Connected to an EEG machine, the cellist experimented with exercising her free will using instruments, simultaneously using her brain waves as a score. The resulting material led to a series of live shows across Europe and it re-framed her musical outlook with a shower of new influences and sounds shaping her musical being. Bosnian folk, off-kilter classical, endless glissandi loops, eerie and fidgeting electronics and the cello, again and again, plucked, scratched, silent and angry.

All Lakiko’s songs are steeped in political sentiment “but in my very non-political way” with topics about the chances, or lack of, of changing social class (Tobogan), gender equality (The Woman Is Stronger Than the Man in Me), and our tendency as society to repeat the same things over and over again (Junaci). For Lakiko, art and politics are forever present and entwined. “Music is the biggest part of my life. Conversely, my life is the biggest part of my music” she explains. As an artist, as a woman and as of very recently, as a mother, Lakiko’s purpose is one of many questions she constantly ponders. The title of the album, What To Do, How To Live? came about years before, overhearing another musician joking around. But for Lakiko, this question repeats over and over and has become a permanent narrative.

"My 'loudest' feeling is that I can't change anything, and I don't want to accept those rules of the game. After all, I left Sarajevo. That's why I always have to point out that I have no right to criticise or say anything. But even though I left Sarajevo and BiH, it didn't leave me, so I'm still dealing with it through music".

Lana’s first introduction to the cello was a rather curious one that took place when she was only 4 years old. “I was riding with my mother in the elevator and humming something, and the concertmaster of the Zagreb Philharmonic at the time, who was also in the elevator, told me that I had good hearing and huge hands and that I had to play the cello," she says. That meeting in a lift changed her life forever.

As a classical cellist Lana performs as a soloist, with orchestras and in various chamber music ensembles like Zürcher Oper, Theater Bern and Theater Bremen. She collaborated in various interdisciplinary projects such as in the film Dvorak who? (directed by Jan Harlan - executive producer of Stanley Kubrick), in contemporary theatre (Biennale Munich) and with dance groups (Lucerne Kunsthalle, Chollerhalle Zug). When watching Lakiko perform on a stage or on screen, it’s sometimes difficult to see the separation between music and theatre, as she is constantly moving, gesticulating, and dramatizing. Yet her presence, and her emotion is all-powerful, introverted but absolutely real.

The dark and introspective combination of acoustic cello energized by a range of bewildering effects with mystical other-worldly singing and vocalizations, is arresting and powerful. All the more so, with her hard-hitting subject matter which she says could only have been sung in her mother tongue of Bosnian, as there are no other words to express these thoughts.

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