February 12, 2015
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Marija Stojnic is a co-founder of ‘ROSA’ – a New York City-based, all-female vocal ensemble that unites singers from three continents with a mission to preserve and nurture the authentic form of traditional singing from Serbia. The group was formed in 2014. You can see them perform on Sunday, March 1st, 2015 at Gallery MC in New York City during a benefit event for flood victims in Macedonia. The following is a Q&A I recently conducted with Stojnic:
Zlatko Filipovic: Tell us about your background, where you come from, where your family is from?
Marija Stojnic: My family settled down in a small town in western Serbia where I spent my childhood. I left home at the age of 15 to pursue my artistic dreams and entered the Music School ‘Mokranjac’ in Belgrade, department of Ethnomusicology, where I studied traditional singing for three years. My mentor was professor Sanja Rankovic, PhD, today a good friend and one of my closest associates on the projects we will talk about. Still, film was another big passion of mine so I ended up getting a degree from the Department for Film and TV directing at the Academy of Arts in Belgrade, and I continued pursuing my career in documentary film and TV. In 2011, I moved to New York City, and entered MA (Media Studies) at The New School for Public Engagement. That’s when I continued my research in the field of Traditional Serbian Music and Art. The idea for the project ‘Girl Who Opposed the Sun’ was conceived during my first year of studies at the Media Studies department.
Zlatko Filipovic: Tell us about the group ‘ROSA’? How did it get its start? What are you hoping to achieve?
Marija Stojnic: Shortly before ‘ROSA’ was founded, I was finishing my thesis and working on a documentary about traditional Serbian singing. I was preparing a lecture about cultural and social aspects of traditional female singing from Serbia for the ‘200 years of Serbs in America’ event in Philadelphia, when my friend Aleksandra Denda, an incredibly talented singer/songwriter and a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, approached me with a proposal to form a group that will perform this kind of music. Together, we founded a multi-national, all-female Traditional Vocal Ensemble ‘ROSA’ – which further supported the mission of ‘Girl Who Opposed the Sun’ project. The idea behind ‘ROSA’ is that it’s an open-type female ensemble that serves to preserve and nurture the authentic form of traditional, non-tempered singing from Serbia and educate new singers regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. Also, we plan on bringing the most relevant Serbian experts and singers to teach workshops in the U.S. We want these songs to be heard so we gladly accept every invitation that comes our way. You can see us and hear us next at the upcoming benefit at Gallery MC in New York City on March 1st, 2015 for flood relief in Macedonia. It’s a great humanitarian cause and we want to support it in any way we can.
Zlatko Filipovic: Tell us about the film you’re working on.
Marija Stojnic: ‘Girl Who Opposed the Sun’ is a feature-length musical-documentary about folk art and vanishing musical tradition from Serbia that was created and passed along by women through centuries of our turbulent history. Irreducible to the Western tonal system, these songs are impossible to write down and can be carried on only as an oral tradition. In the film, three generations of women reveal the mesmerizing power of this heritage that embodies folklore and myth, and a desire to explore the value of an intergenerational memory. The film blends in two worlds – of darkness and wonder, both equal in weight: the contemporary life in Serbia and the fantastic mythical world of the region’s folk art preserved in songs, fairy tales, poetry, painting, etc. Through this film, I wanted to explore all those unspoken cultural factors that shaped me into the individual I am today as well as to play with the non-linear narrative and postmodern history genre as it redefines our notions of “truth.” Unfortunately, the production is on hold while we are attempting to raise funds sufficient to continue filming in Serbia, hopefully by the end of this year.
Aleksandra Denda – singer/songwriter / co-founder of ‘ROSA’
Note: all still images in this article are provided by / courtesy of Marija Stojnic and/or ROSA.
© 2015 Zlatko Filipović. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or redistributed without author’s permission.