Alen Islamović – You Can Hear the Sound of Silence and a...

Alen Islamović – You Can Hear the Sound of Silence and a Stray Breeze at My Plantations

Apart from being an excellent singer and musician, Alen is also a family man, and a successful businessman 

Alen Islamović has left his mark on the regional music scene with band Divlje Jagode, and subsequently with Bijelo Dugme. Songs like Motori, Šejla, Nasmiješi se…have become cult songs, and for many, Alen is synonymous with rock’n’roll. He is still very active musically, performing with his orchestra and Goran Bregović’s orchestra, and his source of energy are the hazelnut plantations that he runs with his family in his hometown of Bihać. We spoke to Alen about music, business and travel, and he was particularly happy to talk about his wife and his unbreakable bond with his daughters.

If you look back, you have had a long and very successful music career. What is the best thing that music has given you throughout all these years that you have been in the business?

– All these years I have been doing something I really love. The challenges at work gave me great energy, which I often had to control. This type of work is similar to riding a wild horse. You need to reach the moment when you take the reign and control your destiny, the speed of your success, as well as failure. You needed to be honest, fair and careful not to go into the world of darkness with no return. I met a lot of wonderful people through music and I got to travel all over the world. If I had had to pay for it myself, it would have cost a fortune. 

Everyone knows that Divlje Jagode had a special place in your life. At this point in time, how do you view the period while you were in this band?

Divlje Jagode were my beginning, a great school where I learned a lot. Leaving your hometown and going into the big wide world and fighting for your spot in former Yugoslavia was no small matter. In big cities you needed to assert your story; as singers, musicians, and even the clothes that we made for ourselves. The lyrics that I wrote then as part of Divlje Jagode were revolutionary for the generations of that time. Three men played like a herd of buffalos, I was the lead singer and bassist, Zele played the guitar and Nasko played the drums. We gave our hearts and our energy!

Today it is very rare to hear the kind of sound that Divlje Jagode used to produce. Why is that the case?

– At that time. it was all honest, there was no fooling around in Divlje Jagode. We would dig for 200 days of the year, having concerts on tractor trailers, large stages in cornfields. Wherever people wanted to hear Motori, we would come. I wasn’t in charge of group politics, had I been in charge we’d still be together today, with the best lineup and we would’ve made some money from that music and now we’d be enjoying doing select concerts. However, these are all intertwined destinies and they are hard to untangle.

Today you perform with Bijelo Dugme. What is it like working with Goran Bregović?

– At the very beginning of our tour, Bregović and I set off alone with an orchestra, and we produced the songs differently. It’s nice to work with Brega, you can only pick up clever and good things from him. He gave me some advice that turned my life around. I love that I’m still working with Goran, there’s no pressure, nervousness, everything goes smoothly.

You are a successful man, both privately and in business. What is the recipe for a good balance between the two?

– I don’t have a degree to tell me that. My degree is “life school”. I learned the main rules at home; don’t steal, lie, mess around, go into streets where you have no business being there. Don’t go exploring the dark, stick to the light. Avoid bad, vulgar people who are troublesome. I am friends with people who are similar to myself, who love sports, entertainment, family trips… When you live a life like this, it’s easy to maintain a balance. I love my family, as they are my greatest preserved treasure. Family is my peaceful oasis.

You were always faithful and close to your wife and children. What is the secret to a happy family? 

– Family is my peaceful oasis. When I’d come home from the road nervous, tired, full of problems, it would all go away at home. My wife raised our daughters, and I’d also step in every now and then. I never had harsh words for them. Family is built on trust and respect, and I never did any business moves without first talking to my wife about it.

They say that the relationship between fathers and daughters is something really special. Considering that you have two daughters, is this statement accurate? 

– Yes, our relationship couldn’t be better. A father always wants to look after his girls, even when they are now mothers. We have two grandsons who have made our worlds better, and I’m rooting for more grandchildren, as my wife and I come from large families.

In your birthplace of Krajina, you have hazelnut plantations. Where does your love of  agriculture stem from?

– My father was a gardener and farmer. He would graft roses in our garden, so we’d have red, white and pink roses in a single bush, and his tomatoes would get eaten as if they were apples. I picked up those details from him, and I am generally a nature lover.

My wife inherited a lot of land, and I bought some and we got around 25 000 m2 for plantations, in three locations. They are all near the Una River and they are 3-4 km from the city. By examining the land, I came to know that it was suitable for growing hazelnut and walnut trees. They bear hazelnuts for 80 to 100 years, it has excellent standing on the market and its price doesn’t fall. For a number of years, it was the desire of my wife and I to leave something behind for our children and grandchildren, and we’ve succeeded in our intent. I planted the most sought out variety, the hazelnuts are coming in, and in several years, we’ll be playing with tons. You can hear the sound of silence and a stray breeze at my plantations, it’s a paradise for the ears and eyes.

Apart from hazelnut plantations, have you got any more plans for a private business?

– I don’t want anything else. In the future, I can see the house in Bihać as a boarding house for groups that come in order to go rafting on the Una River, and I would prepare various specialties in my way.

You travel a lot, which countries do you find fascinating? 

– Australia is strange, America is fascinating with its glamor in everything, Canada is a bit cold, in my opinion. Europe is on the palm of my hand and it is the prettiest continent in the world. I have a lot of nice memories, acquaintances and concerts from all those places.

Who do you most love traveling with?

– In the last couple of years, we’ve often gone on trips on cruise ships with our friends. That way, we see the most beautiful cities on the sea, islands, beaches and destinations that would be hard to see from a car or visit by car. I was fascinated by Dubai! We have friends from Slovenia, Serbia, B&H and Croatia, so the 10-12 of us travel regularly. I especially love skiing. I taught both my daughters to ski, and now I’m waiting to also teach my grandsons. I’ve seen such Alpine beauties that I could write a book about them.  

Do you have any travel plans for the summer?

– This summer, I’ll be working. I’ll be promoting my new album Tajno with concerts. Excellent musicians from bands Crvena Jabuka, Zabranjeno Pušenje, Dubioza Kolektiv will be featured… This summer, Bregović also set some time aside for Bijelo Dugme concerts, so we’ll be hanging out a bit. For next year, I’m preparing a very interesting double album, and it’ll be a surprise for all my fans.

Author: Samila Ivković