"Sarajevo/Belfast" brings together two incredible musicians from countries rent by deadly internal strife. Singer Tommy Sands grew up amidst the devastating "troubles" in Northern Ireland, and cellist Vedran Smailovic was a resident of Bosnia, which suffered direly from the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia into separate warring territories.
The violence and pain these men witnessed and experienced has been transmuted into a compelling swirl of world, classical and folk music on this CD, which contains many songs serving as pleas for peace in these and other war-torn lands. Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," with vocals by Sands, fellow Irish singer Delores Keane, and a chorus of Catholic and Protestant children, was played outside the peace negotiations between Northern Ireland and England for three months, and was also used as an anthem of peace in Northern Ireland when it was played by both sides after the 1998 "Real IRA" bombing in Omagh that killed 29 people. Serbia's 1992 shelling of a breadline in Sarajevo, resulting in 22 civilian deaths, inspired Smailovic to bring his cello to the bombsite and perform "Albinoni's Adagio" (heard here in a studio version) at 4 p.m., the time of the deadly attack, for the next 22 days. The image of the seated, formally attired "Cellist of Sarajevo," playing the mournful composition was seen worldwide, drawing the attention of the media and anti-war advocates such as Joan Baez, who later joined him in the street to demonstrate for peace.
Both Seeger and Baez appear on this CD. Pete joins Sands in singing their co-written "The Music of Healing," which has been called "a new anthem of healing for our times" by John Hume, leader of Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party and co-recipient of the 1998 Noble Peace Prize for his reconciliation work. Joan and Sands share the vocals on the stirring "Ode to Sarajevo," which bears the chorus, "Sarajevo, Sarajevo, the whole world sings your song."
The impact of war and the yearning for peace color various other tracks. The instrumental "Bembesa" replicates the tranquility of the Serbian river after which it is named, while the classical "Waltz" is interspersed with the sounds of gunfire and military drums. Sands' "Child of 2000," written in 1995, paints a pastoral picture of a peaceful future that has yet to materialize.