A Croatian Artist’s Big Night at Carnegie Hall

Ines Trickovic (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

Ines Trickovic (Photo by Alexandre Soares for Voices of NY)

“Nikola Tesla,” the singer shouts, rushing across the street to Bryant Park, in Manhattan, and pointing her phone’s camera at the street sign honoring the Serbian scientist. “Nikola Tesla!”

“He’s a personal hero,” Ines Trickovic, 33, later says of Tesla, born in Croatia during the Austrian Empire, who created the alternating current electricity supply system and died in New York in 1943. “He wanted to distribute power to everyone. He wanted his inventions to be universally available for free.”

Within a few minutes, Trickovic spies baklava in a coffee shop, explaining that the pastry was a Croatian tradition introduced by the Turkish; points to a red rickshaw, saying it reminded her of China and Macau; and discusses how she sings in Croatian, Portuguese, English, French, Italian, German and Hebrew. “I also sing a couple of songs in Mandarin,” she added. “But just a little. I wouldn’t count it as an eighth language.”

Even if she doesn’t sing in eight languages, or incorporate the musical traditions of these countries, you can hear all those voices in “Tales of Quiet Lands and Other Stories,” a jazz album she recorded last year, and whose songs she will premiere this Wednesday, April 6, at Carnegie Hall. In some tracks, you hear murmurs of Croatia, where she was born; you feel the pace of Germany, where she went to escape the destruction of war as Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s; and hints of China, where she moved for love. “This album is me,” she said. “It’s very personal. People will learn a lot about me and where I have been.”

Trickovic has met success in her country, having in 2014 won a Porin, the top Croatian music award, for best jazz performance. And she’s also well-known in Macau and China’s jazz circuits, where she has toured several times. But this afternoon in Bryant Park, six days before getting on stage, she’s realizing what a night in one of New York’s most emblematic venues can mean for her career. “I’m nervous… This might be the most important concert I ever had,” she said, somewhat hesitantly, and immediately corrected herself. “I’m sure it is the most important. But I’m ready. I’m so ready.”

Trickovic started singing at the age of 6, when her grandmother took her to an audition for a choir in her coastal town of Dubrovnik. “I was always singing and performing for friends and family,” she remembers. “So I did very well in the audition.” At age 8, when she was ready to enter music school, the war started.

“We had days of bombing, then two days of school. Then you would start hearing shooting and, next day, there was no school again. Our lives were bombing, bombing, bombing, shelter, shelter, shelter,” she says. In the shelter, when someone had a guitar, she was asked to sing.

Being an only child and with her father in the army – fighting on the side of the Croatians who sought secession from Yugoslavia – Trickovic was alone with her mother during the conflict. “I saw everything. Bullets on the ground, shrapnel from bombs, houses destroyed, people dead… I saw it all.” At some point, she says, she and her mother survived for three months without running water.

On the coast and on the border, Dubrovnik was badly damaged by four years of conflict. In 1995, freed from the army, her father saw no future for the family in the city. “There were no prospects. Tourism was the main business and was completely dead. No tourists were coming. Hotels had been bombed to the ground.” They moved to Bremen, in Germany, and she stopped singing. She focused on tennis and became a North Germany champion at age 13.

They returned four years later and bought a house in a quiet neighborhood, with small houses very close to each other, where Trickovic would open the windows and play the music of jazz greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Then, she would start singing. “I would hear them, repeat and memorize. I wrote the music down, and repeated. That’s how you learn. It’s a long process. But for me it was just a hobby, something I enjoyed doing.”

It happened that next door lived a drummer, who heard the music wafting out the windows, and one day knocked on her door. He knew a band that was looking for a singer. She should audition. At age 18, she started performing with them, singing everything from pop, to R&B, blues, and traditional Croatian songs. “And some jazz, because I loved it and was always pushing for it,” she adds. “I had learned all these songs in my room, just for fun, and then there I was, performing them. It had always been my secret wish and it had become true. It was incredible.”

Years before, she had found a mix cassette with some Brazilian bossa nova – Tom Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Edu Lobo  – and started singing their music. “There was no Internet, so I was listening to Portuguese lyrics and taking notes as I heard them. I had no idea what I was doing, but it turned out OK.” After three years of working with the band, she started doing projects that mixed jazz and bossa nova. “I was exclusively performing shows of all jazz and bossa nova at age 22. It was a big thing for me, because no one was doing it in Croatia.”

She started having more and more shows, bands kept asking for collaborations, and she began recording. She moved to Zagreb, the capital, where she did theater and circus. She became a clown, volunteering at children’s hospitals, and wrote a script for a cabaret show. She was invited to Zhuhai, in China, to tour with the show, and that opened the doors of the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival, to The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival, and other events in the country.

“Chinese people have opened up a lot. They are really curious. They want to experience everything. They are like: ‘Give us everything. We want theater, music, shows, circus, and explosions. We want it all.’” In one of her visits, she met Ao Ieong Weng Fong, a photographer, director and movie producer, and married him. In 2014, she moved to Macau to be with him.

That was also the year she got the award for best jazz performance of the year, for the album “Runjic in Blue,’’ and was invited to join in the concert cycle ”All Souls at Sundown,” at All Souls Church in New York, accompanied by the pianist Aaron Goldberg.

The concert opened up opportunities for Trickovic. Now she’s represented by New York Artist Management, and she’s collaborating with the saxophonist Brian Girley. Last April, Girley, Trickovic and five other musicians – Julian Shore, Gilad Hekselman, Marion Ross III, Shin Sakaino, and Marcus Gilmore – recorded the album that she will present at Carnegie Hall. “I still can’t believe I’m working with these people,” she says of the group. “They’re amazing. A few years ago I was listening to their CDs and now I’ll be on stage with them.”

Trickovic hopes the Croatian community in New York will show their support at the concert, but says her audience is very mixed. “People usually tell me they like the way I sing because it doesn’t remind them of someone else. I don’t come from the American tradition, which is so strong in jazz.”

She hesitates when asked about what a Croatian brings to jazz, but eventually offers that it is “a Mediterranean soul with a gypsy spirit.”

“That’s very much the nature of my people,” she explains.

That is not, however, the right way to describe her music, she argues. “As an artist, I bring to the table who I am. It’s all about my individual life experience. That’s what makes my music the way it is, my expression the way it is.” She says we won’t “hear any Chinese instruments or fado elements in the songs,” but, if we really pay attention, it is all there. “It’s in the way I approach composition.”

She loves living in Macau, but after two years in the region, which until 1999 was under Portuguese administration, still feels like an outsider. “I don’t belong to the Portuguese community or to the Chinese community,” she says. “It has been hard to find places I feel like home.” Lately, she has only felt home when she’s by the shore, like the mental image she carries from Dubrovnik before the war.

In New York, though, the sights and the sounds give her a sense of belonging. She shares this feeling during lunch hour, at a restaurant on 72nd Street and Broadway, on a warm, humid day. The place is packed. It’s hard to understand where the line starts or ends, where to place an order, or where to pick up the food. Many voices, accents, pile up on each other. “I love this. I love this energy that only New York has,” Trickovic says, with a voice that cuts through the daze. “This is not home, but I feel like it beats to the same beat of my heart.”


  1. Nikola Tesla was born in Lika region in Croatia. The author is mistaken when saying “…territory that is now Croatia..”. Lika region is in the heart of Croatia from the 7th century.

  2. The author is wrong about few facts.

    Namely, the “Serbian” Nikola Tesla , and the claim that republic of Croatia “seeking secession from Yugoslavia”.

    Reading between the lines, it is obvious that the journalist is using oppprtunity to subtly promote its serbian ethnic roots. Considering Serbia did mass murders and genocide in its war, this journalist needs to have her licence terminated for the reason of subtly lobbying for mass murderers.

    The real facts are:

    Location-wise , Tesla was born in Smiljan, Croatia. His father was church priest of christian orthodox orientation. Tesla himself publicly said that “he is proud of Croatia as his homeland and of ethnicity of serb roots”

    About Yugoslavia: actually, the Yugoslavia as an union of 7 republics was corrupted to the core from the inside when serbian republic broke into the monetary system of all the republics, taking money from the united republics’ joint fund.
    The other republics reacted by seeking separate monetary system, and when the serbian republic, who always wanted to have domination over the others , denied it – only then the other republics except neutral Bosnia were seeking independence from the serbian (filthy) matters. It is a well estsblished fact that serbia had a fantasy to have a mega republic which will “unite serbs” at the cost of territory of everyone around.
    Then, it started waging war against the republic of Croatia and Bosnia old school with joint republic “serbized” army with the all the tanks , airplanes and howitzers they could get.

    The long lines of tanks were running out of Serbia towards Croatia and Bosnia , who could not stay neutral when serbian tanks and snipers started to kill innocent citizens who were protesting against serbian war waging.

    Years ago, serbian and to a lesser amount montenegro who also say bye later to Serbia for the same reason – were trying to use label “Yugoslavia” to take the credit for all the good effect that have been produced by all the republics together.

    Now, I feel that this Alexandra has hidden agenda to promote her serb roots in the US on this ocasion. Considering all the blood and injudtice done in the name of a failed Serb dream wish to have megarepublic – I consider this as disgraceful subtly negative lobbying by the ethnically biased journalist. Bad journalism.

  3. Irena and DMR , I am Croatian and PLEASE don’t embarrass the whole Croatian population by using any opportunity to promote your political opinions that have nothing to do with the subject and your facts are just wrong! This interview is about MUSIC and NOT about politics! and the journalist is Portuguese NOT Serbian and has nothing to do with Serbia. DMR you have a severe form of paranoia that has nothing to do with reality. get a psychiatrist. And you both have probably not experience any of the war anyhow , maybe just from your cozy American homes. so don’t even act like big patriots, you are just embarrassing all of us Croatians that were in the war and still live in Croatia and live our life without looking back to the war years…forgive and forget we are all bothers.
    The war is over. Get over it!!!!

    This is about music and our great Croatian artist!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


https://www.bachelortreats.com/about-us/ https://www.viva-awa.com/BESTSELLERS https://www.sexxxotoy.com/about-us/