I first heard this song on radio thanx to the marvelous Arieb Azhar. Little did I know that “Emina” is the most famous song by the renown Serbian poet Aleksa Santic, who was born in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in a time when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was at its peak & ruling over most of the Balkans. It was his dream, like many of his contemporaries in the region, that the “South Slavs” should unite & form a country of their own. This dream became Yugoslavia.
“Emina” is written as a traditional Bosnian sevdalinka (love ballad). Musically, sevdalinka is characterized by a slow or moderate tempo and rich harmony, arousing the feelings of melancholy in the listener. Sevdalinka songs are very elaborate, emotionally charged and are traditionally sung with passion. This musical form is enriched by various elements from various Eastern (Ottoman Turk) & European (Slavs) influences, due to Bosnia’s turbulent history, making it very distinct & unique in the Balkans. Like other sevdalinka “Emina” is still sung all across the former Yugoslavia in restaurants & gatherings.
“Emina” is a hauntingly beautiful song, maybe because all have our Emina’s.
Emina by Aleksa Santic
Sinoć, kad se vratih iz topla hamama,
Prođoh pokraj bašte staroga imama;
Kad tamo, u bašti, u hladu jasmina,
S ibrikom u ruci stajaše Emina.
Ja kakva je, pusta! Tako mi imana,
Stid je ne bi bilo da je kod sultana!
Pa još kad se šeće i plećima kreće…
Ni hodžin mi zapis više pomoć neće!…
Ja joj nazvah selam. Al’ moga mi dina,
Ne šće ni da čuje lijepa Emina,
No u srebren ibrik zahitila vode
Pa po bašti đule zalivati ode;
S grana vjetar duhnu pa niz pleći puste
Rasplete joj one pletenice guste,
Zamirisa kosa ko zumbuli plavi,
A meni se krenu bururet u glavi!
Malo ne posrnuh, mojega mi dina,
No meni ne dođe lijepa Emina.
Samo me je jednom pogledala mrko,
Niti haje, alčak, što za njome crko’!…
Last night, returning from the warm hamam,
I passed by the garden of the old imam,
And lo, in the garden, in the shade of a jasmine,
There with a pitcher in her hand stood Emina.
What beauty! By my Muslim faith I could swear,
She wouldn’t be ashamed if she were at the sultan’s!
And the way she walks and her shoulders move . . .
Not even a hodja’s amulet could help me!
I offered her salaam, but by my faith,
Beautiful Emina wouldn’t even hear it.
Instead, scooping water in her silver pitcher,
Around the garden she went to water the roses.
A wind blew from the branches down her lovely shoulders
Unraveling those thick braids of hers.
Her hair gave off a scent of blue hyacinths,
Making me giddy and confused!
I nearly stumbled, I swear by my faith,
But beautiful Emina didn’t come to me.
She only gave me a frowning look,
Not caring, the naughty one, that I’m crazy for her!
Here’s Ibrica Jusic’s beautiful rendition of the classic.
& here’s our Arieb Azhar