Nevena Reljin, latino and jazz singer: I am a real retro lady

Charm of the Bygone Era

By Žikica Milošević

Being a retro, vintage girl has never been so popular as it is today, in the era of global nostalgia. Nevena Reljin, the Novi Sad–based latino and jazz singer, takes us back to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and the charms of Portuguese, Spanish and Golden Era jazz…

How did it all start? Many people graduate singing from the Music Academy but few choose this performance style. Why jazz, why latino?

The moment I was given freedom to improvise, I started thinking about jazz. The classical music education helped me, but it was the dancing classes that influenced me most. While dancing, you listen to the music from all over the world, and I noticed that I incredibly liked Latin American music, like samba, salsa, rumba, cha-cha… I was fascinated when I discovered Tom Jobim. If music has certain jazz elements, that’s even better! I especially like the Brazilian music; its harmonies have a lot in common with classics, and jazz, and the singing is not intrusive but rather very demanding.

You have a very vivid personality. What attracted you to the equally vivid Latino spirit?

Yes, I do. I am not only attracted to the Brazilian music. I love Spanish and Cuban music too. Boleros are different, singing is more passionate, rhythms are different and laced with emotions that are not hidden, and since they are all different, you cannot get tired of them. I sang the Serbian folk music in an ethno band. I loved collaborating with Madame Piano and I liked singing Serbian music, performed in our own unique way. We are planning on recording something too from the world music which is atypical for Serbia. In late 1990s, the world music experienced a great boom. I think that this is really great and it makes us open up to the world. Today, it is much easier to embrace this kind of music.

You formed your own live bands like Nevas Trio (and Quartet), but you also sang with musical greats like Aleksandar Dujin and Big Band. You are known for always looking elegant in long dresses with your style being a contemporary take on the 1950s fashion.

Thank you! I guess it is because I am very romantic and these songs were written a special kind of passion back then. They were not superficial in any way. I am a big fan of that era, and I am a real retro lady! I plan to work more with Big Band, since it is so precious. You learn a lot, and several soloists perform at one concert. Big Band is a part of that retro, vintage story I like. And there is the same trend going on too. You also need more musical and financial support if you want to have a concert like Big Band’s. This is not an everyday thing, and you need a lot of love to push it to sound and look good. Plus you need to be sincere in all of it. People believe you when you believe in what you do. Only then you can fill big venues like the theatres in Novi Sad, Sombor, the Synagogue… It is not a coincidence when these venues sell out. You should never fake it, and this applies to all music genres. If people continue to come to gigs like ours, there is hope for this world. I also worked as a singer on a cruiser for months, performing latino jazz, and it was really good. I visited all the exotic places I wanted to see while performing the music I adore.

You were a member of several very interesting bands, like Parni Valjak, and you worked with Aki Rahimovski, diving deep into pop waters. How did this come about?

When Aki came back to Serbia after ten years of absence, he started touring heavily all over the country. We had over 100 gigs in small venues in Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia. It was great visiting all those places, and for the audiences to have the opportunity to listen to a real music star, a good person and a good singer. I learnt a lot from him. It was a real pleasure working with Aki. He is also a great cook, and he used every spare moment during the 20-day-tour to cook for all of us.

People believe you when you believe in what you do. Audiences always penalize insincerity in music.


Finally, the time has come for me to write my own music. I always wanted to do that, since I basically sang covers in all my previous concerts. They were the covers of evergreen classics but covers nevertheless. I summed up the courage to write and record my own songs. I sing in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Serbian. The issue of language was crucial for me, and the songs came naturally. My first song is in English, but maybe the next one will be in Spanish, since I wrote it in Spanish. I generally sing in the latino-jazz-pop canon, since I feel it the most and I believe in it. So, it is only logical to make my own songs in this style. If I do that, people will believe in them. The second step is working with you and Sputñik, both in studio and at big festivals like Revolution in Timişoara or EXIT. Since we are friends, and I like that genre of music, our collaboration is going to be great. The time has come for original music with sincerity above all.

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