Vedran Smajlović, in Sarajevo, 1992
11 November 1956 |
Sarajevo, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslavia
|Occupation(s)||Cellist, composer, pedagogue|
|Instruments||Viola, violin, violoncello|
Vedran Smailović (born 11 November 1956), known as the "Cellist of Sarajevo", is a musician from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet. During the siege of Sarajevo, he played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor in ruined buildings, and, often under the threat of snipers, he played during funerals. His bravery inspired musical numbers and a book, which distorted the events. He moved to Northern Ireland and is a composer, conductor, and performer.
The Cellist of Sarajevo
Regularly playing his cello in ruined buildings during the siege of Sarajevo, most notably performing Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, Smailović caught the imagination of people around the world. Smailović also played at funerals during the siege, even though funerals were often targeted by snipers.
In his honour, composer David Wilde wrote a piece for solo cello, The Cellist of Sarajevo, which was recorded by Yo Yo Ma. Paul O'Neill described Smailović's performances as the inspiration for Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 by Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Folk singer John McCutcheon also penned a song in his honour, In the Streets of Sarajevo.
Canadian author Elizabeth Wellburn worked with Smailović to create the children's book Echoes from the Square (1998). Another Canadian author, Steven Galloway, used Smajlović as a character in his bestselling 2008 novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo. In the book, an unnamed cellist plays every day at 4:00 pm for 22 days, always at the same time and location, to honour the 22 people killed by a mortar bomb while they queued for bread on May 26, 1992. The account, including the time of the mortar attack, is fictional. Smailović publicly expressed outrage over the book's publication. He said, "They steal my name and identity," and added that he expected damages, an apology and compensation.
He escaped the city in late 1993 and has since been involved in numerous music projects as a performer, composer and conductor. He now lives in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland.