Photo by Holden Ketchum
In the liner notes of Amir Beso's CD Fatamorgana
director/writer Phil Alden Robinson ("Field of Dreams", "Sneakers", "The Sum of All Fears")
I met him in 1992, when he was lead guitarist for a war-time production of the American musical "Hair" in Sarajevo, but it was much later when I learned his name was Amir. Everyone in Sarajevo had a nickname, and his was Lazy. That's how I was introduced to him, and I quickly assumed it was sort of like how Clapton's chums nicknamed him "Slowhand", because this skinny kid with the scraggly beard and USA baseball cap seemed anything but lazy when he played the guitar. Blisteringly-fast leads, taste, tone, talent, he had it all. Heavy-metal, blues, straight-ahead rock, you name it, he played it, and brilliantly.
After the show, we sat in a smoke-filled bar and he told me of the months of rehearsals that had gone into the show; how important it was for the artists and the audience to keep this sort of thing alive; the hardships of putting on a show with an emergency generator, enough power for one spotlight, and mortars and snipers outside. "Look," he sighed, pulling back one side of his jacket, "I have to carry gun." Indeed, there was a holstered pistol on his hip. "What's that for," I asked?
"To make sure I get to theatre."
I made a mental note to remember this the next time someone on a movie complained to me about their motor home.
We met again a year later. The war was still raging, and he was thinner, but just as determined to make a difference. "I've learned a lot about life in the past 18 months," he mused. "Mostly what I've learned is that in times like this good people get better, and bad people get worse."
A few weeks later, he was walking down the wrong street at the wrong time, some mortars exploded, and he was badly injured. My assistant Laura worked the phones for weeks until she found the hospital in Denmark to which he'd been sent for treatment. Eventually, we were able to convince the U.S. Information Agency to fly a couple of "Hair" performers over to the U.S. to raise public awareness about the war. Lazy came over, met Laura, they fell in love, got married, and had a kid.
All of which is a long story about how I lost my assistant. But I'm pleased to report that Lazy has atoned for this theft by creating "Fatamorgana", a gorgeous CD of surprising, original and soulful music. It's music that could only have been created by a virtuoso musician whose life encompasses the Balkans, rock-and-roll, war, peace, love, a wife and a new son.