Angelina Jolie invites Camden Town musician to work on latest film

In The Land of Blood and Honey feature Dado Dzihan’s recordings

Camden Town musician Dado Dzihan loves sounds. So much so he changed the surname of his son Yehan from the traditional Bosnian spelling Dzihan to ‘Jehan’. “It sounds nicer, Yehan Jehan. It has a ring to it. I am interested in how things sound, rather than the correct spelling,” he says.

Perhaps it is his ear for a good sound that led him to produce music for Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut In The Land Of Blood And Honey, set during the Bosnian war.

The musician got involved after being invited to audition for a small part. “It was an anonymous director, based in LA, I didn’t know who. I knew it was a war film, set in Bosnia. I thought maybe it was Spielberg or Clint Eastwood. The interview was kind of informal and you were just chatting to the camera. I was talking about my history and my music and I turned to face the camera and said, ‘And I could do music for your film.’ I knew the video would go to the director, who would see it.”

Jolie contacted him and asked him to write some music for the film. He composed three pieces that have undertones of Balkan folk music but also combine blues, classical, rock and world music styles. “It was a smooth process. It was done in three days. I worked backwards, I began with the end. Angelina loved it. They were dancing and jumping in the cutting room. Maybe we will do more.”

The Camden Town-basedmusician formed a friendship with the actress, and partner Brad Pitt. “She’s a really extraordinary person. We made true friends, they are lovely people. I feel like I can talk to them.

“For example, my son was doing a showcase in Shoreditch Church. He realised he needed to set up a concert with very little support. He wrote an email to Angelina to ask if she would be interested in supporting them to help to produce the show and sent links to his work.

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“Two days later, an email came back saying, ‘It is my pleasure to support you and an envelope is waiting in the Dorchester Hotel.’ It was a blessing and she was wishing him well.”

Dzihan, 46, is no stranger to the world of film and music, having also written traditional Bosnian folk songs for and played a small part in Anthony Minghella’s 2006 film Breaking And Entering.

The musician, classically trained in his home city of Sarajevo, used to play with a rock band and was a member of New Primitivism, an art movement in early 80s Sarajevo which led to a controversial satirical TV show. He had to leave just before the war in 1991. “We left a year before the war started. I was playing in my band and it got to a point where we couldn’t move around the country because of the tensions and things happening. My wife said she had a friend in London and I said, ‘OK, let’s go there! They have a good music scene too.’

“When I arrived here, all my credits were worth nothing. I couldn’t transfer my success here. I had to start from scratch. Also, all the material things are gone, lost. Your family is destroyed – there is not a single family without a casualty.”

With the trouble in the Balkan region being the topic of so many dramas in the UK and America, Dzihan managed to get his break into the industry over here because his face fitted the part. “I was a dodgy Russian lorry driver, Bosnian gangster, Serb. All the usual stereotypes. It is quite annoying because the way it is portrayed is not true. I appreciate the opportunities I have because I feel we need to work on our image. It’s not all women screaming, crying and savages. The beauty of the area and the art is completely missed.”

Dzihan is set to perform at the Hampstead Summer Community Festival with his 11-year-old daughter Zada. All the family, including his wife, Neska, play music and they often perform together. He is hoping to compose for more films in the future. “I’m up for experiments. I’m classically trained but I would rather go the left-field way and do something completely different.”