For Dejan Ilijić and the band Eyot that he leads, it can be said first of all: unusual. Not only when it comes to his music, because the picture is wider. Namely, Eyot is an artistic concept, a cultural venture, a creative process supported by hard work, perseverance, serious production, frequent concert performances around the world and interesting music videos. According to all indicators, Eyot has been at the top of the list of jazz ensembles from Serbia for the number of performances abroad for years. Also, it stands out for its cooperation with world well-known labels and producers, with some albums recorded in top European studios. Briefly, about the current album, as well as the solo project, we talk with the composer and pianist Ilijić.

You stated that you consider the current album “557799” (Ropeadope, 2020) the best so far. It received great reviews, was among the best-selling jazz albums on Bandcamp, and was included in several official Spotify playlists. What sets it apart from the previous ones?

– I think that as a whole it is the most complete, the most coherent album. I don’t think that the others are not, only this one stands out in that sense. In any case, the goal is for the new work to be the best in the series. The album “557799” contains a lot of ideas, and themes, which were not completed in the previous period and then finally got their place, connecting with new solutions. That’s how we created a musical thread from the album “Horizon” to today and in a way encompassed the entire creative work. The fact that the album was released for Ropeadope also speaks in favour of “557799”, because it is certainly our most important label so far.

You started a series of solo concerts called “DEcentralizaciJAN”. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, you perform in small towns throughout Serbia. Is this program strictly conceived or do you allow yourself artistic freedom when you are in front of an audience?

– The repertoire I perform on this tour consists of compositions from my solo discography (six albums), with an emphasis on the last “Dyad III”. I have several variants of the set list, so depending on the space, and the quality of the instrument that has a lot of influence on the way I play, the atmosphere or my personal feeling, I decide in which direction the concert will go. The fact is that these concerts are not too different, so all audiences have the opportunity to experience something similar. All performances are being recorded and there are plans to release a compilation album from this tour.

The tradition and mythology of the Balkans subtly permeate your work. Is this the inspiration that essentially drives your artistic visions?

– It certainly belongs to the list of essential initiators of my work, in combination with other influences of the Western and Eastern world. It is well known that all these cultures are permeated by mythology with similar stories and characters, but somehow it is more logical that we use ours as the greatest inspiration and present it to the world within our capabilities. Stories from traditions worldwide show that we all evolved almost equally towards today’s civilization, processing the necessities of life, love, happiness, sadness, attitude towards inexplicable phenomena, etc. What I love most about traditional music is the primal need for expression, without any of the external influences we have today: money, fame, or ego. There is the only connection with oneself, people and nature. I try to be guided by that thought as much as I can when creating. This is probably where the greatest influence of tradition on my creativity lies.

Oliver Đorđević