Sharing a Voice with Vlado Kreslin

By Jay Sedmak
SNPJ Publications Editor/Manager

I’ve enjoyed listening to music my entire life: rock, pop, soul, jazz, standards, classical – even an occasional polka or two. You name it, I’ve listened to it. Through the years I’ve come to appreciate music in its myriad forms, and I’ve become fairly well versed on the subject in general. Now let me assure you that I’m quite conscious of the fact that I’ve bored hundreds of people by droning on and on about some musical topic or another, and yet I continue to do so even to this day. But every once in while I discover a practical application for my rhetoric, at which point the one-sided monologue becomes a beautiful harmony. Take the evening of November 27, for example...

Vlado Kreslin performed in the SNPJ Lodge 106 clubroom on November 27, and prior to the performance Vlado and I were introduced by Slovenian Consul General Jure Žmauc and fellow Home Office staff member Kevin Richards. Granted, Vlado Kreslin may not be a familiar name to American audiences, but without a doubt he is one of the most popular and highly regarded musicians in Slovenia. Kreslin has performed with the likes of Bob Dylan and R.E.M., and his annual holiday performances help set the tone for the Christmas season in Ljubljana.

Since I had the opportunity to meet Vlado Kreslin this week, during our discussions – of which there were several – I took advantage of every syllable uttered to find out more about the Slovenian folk-rock legend. We started by exchanging a quick greeting and handshake, and within an instant the conversation had begun. I opened by telling Vlado I was surprised to learn that he had played the role of Riff Raff in the Slovenian musical version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show;” he countered by asking if I’d seen the production, at which point I explained that I’d seen the American version. Rising and hunching his left shoulder, Vlado launched into a Riff-Raff drawl: “You’re wet. Yes, I think perhaps you better both come inside.” The seal thus broken, the conversation flowed, and flowed... and flowed.

Vlado and I discussed a variety of subjects, touching on the similarities between prose and poetry (he was promoting his new book of poetry; I told him I’d never been accused of being a poet); on his hometown of Beltinci (which is very near the country’s eastern border with Hungary) and Slovenia’s Prekmurje region in general; and on his musical influences. I asked about his trademark black guitar, displayed prominently center stage at that point of the evening, and if that particular guitar was his favorite. Vlado shook his head: his favorite – a Martin acoustic with his name inlaid in the guitar body – remained at home (I can’t blame him for that!). I explained that Martin guitars were made in Pennsylvania (Kevin Richards added that the Martin guitar factory was located near Bethlehem, Pa., just a few hours away from Imperial Lodge 106), and Vlado, Kevin and I made a vow to visit the Martin guitar factory the next time he’s in Pennsylvania. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to that return visit.

I gave Vlado a signed copy of the SNPJ 100th anniversary book I’d written almost a decade ago, and in return he presented me with the gift of a CD – signed, of course – and explained the significance of using the Mura River as the backdrop for the cover and liner art. Vlado skimmed over the book quickly, promising to give it further attention during his flight home. But he did notice – and remark on – two musical references I’d made in the chapter titles, laughing that they were well suited for a history book. We were speaking a common language there, one I don’t often engage in with someone as equally fluent. It wasn’t English (although Vlado’s English is terrific) and it wasn’t Slovenian (which I wouldn't have understood at all); it was the language of music, a voice with which we’re both familiar.

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