Peter Milliken has been a legislator for two full decades and speaker of Canada's Parliament for eight years. Milliken probably does not speak a word of Serbian, although he is quite familiar with one Serbian surname – that of Teofilović. It was Milliken who invited twins Ratko and Radiša Teofilović to sing in Parliament's Hall of Honor in Ottawa, the first Serbs to ever do so. Stefan Latre from Montreal also does not understand a word of Serbian. After hearing the Teofilović brothers sing, however, he scurried to buy tickets for the brothers' concert in Boston in 2005.
Last month, the Teofilović brothers toured Canada again, visiting Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Toronto (in that order). Each time, the brothers were treated to standing ovations as they left the stage. The Teofilovićs performed a variety of ethno-songs from Kosovo*, the southern and western parts of Serbia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, including "Dimitrijo, sine Mitre", "Tri devojke zbor zborile", "Kaleš bre Andjo", "Jovano, Jovanke", "Oj, Moravo" and the melodically similar, but differently-themed "Tudja zemljo, tugo moja" and "Ni prela gora, ni tkala," a praise of nature. In Ottawa, concert-goers were enthralled by "Cveto, mori Cveto," a number in which the twins' voices merge into one, and the ballads "Zajdi, zajdi" and "Marijo, bela kumrijo." The Teofilovićs also participated in the fourth Serbian Cultural Festival in Ottawa, which had more native Canadian visitors this year than those of Serb descent.
The Teofilovićs recorded their first record for Radio Belgrade in 1994. They say that singing is a calling and a life-long challenge to them. The twins embarked on a professional career after years of honing their craft in a choir in their hometown of ?a?ak. Throughout a career that has spanned across a decade and a half, the two brothers have toured Europe, North America and Japan and released three CDs: "The Guardians of Sleep" (1998), "Sabazor Winds" (2002) and Belgrade Live (2007). In the U.S., the brothers held concerts in Boston, Chicago, Indiana, Washington DC (the Kennedy Center) and in Europe - in Russia, Norway, Austria, Germany, Italy, Malta, the Czech Republic, Hungary...
In Hungary the twins were invited to sing at the prestigious Franz Liszt music academy, and the Sziget Festival. Their gigs at the Guitar Art Festival in Belgrade in 2007 followed by Niš, and Podgorica, and a concert with guitar player Miroslav Tadić from Los Angeles will never be forgotten by those who attended them.
In November 2009, the Teofilovićs are scheduled to sing in this year's European Capital of Culture Linz, Austria, and then at the Timisoara Days of Serbian Culture festival in Romania. They also plan to hold a concert in Serbia's capital city and in Novi Sad.
The Teofilovićs sing traditional folk songs that cannot be accurately dated. Even though the words of some of these songs were altered after reforms by Serbian linguistic reformer Vuk Karadžić in the 19th century, they still possess the same underlying quality, or to quote the famous Serbian poet Mom?ilo Nastasijević, the "maternal melody" of the original ones. The songs are like "an archeology of the memory”.
The Teofilovićs are spiritual beings on a mission to enlighten and snatch things from oblivion through their passionate singing. Ratko and Radiša are not only guardians of the people's memory but also a unique symbol of the miracle of song. Their songs are sung with open hearts, in which the blend of emotions rises above the reasons for the song," said Petar Popović, a popular rock journalist in the former Yugoslav region and Serbia.
"[Singing] traditional music is, above all, a kind of deep devotion; more than a profession [to us]. Our mission is, by acting as a medium between ancient times and today, to awaken people to their nobility and virtue. We try to present music that is a product of a centuries-long musical heritage handed down to us, a part of [our] national corpus and culture, in a highly artistic way," the Teofilović brothers explain.
"Music is a universal language and we are happy to be able to deliver Serbian and Balkan music to other peoples as well. Chance bore upon us the gift of simultaneous birth, while God gave us a gift that we are nurturing, perfecting and giving to others from our heart - we bear gifts with our voices," the Teofilovics say. Immediately upon returning from Canada the Teofilovics appeared along with other Serbian artists at a fundraising concert called "The Gift of a Song" in Belgrade for children with cancer. Hope never dies if there is someone to nurture it - just like the ancient, Serbian, Balkan, universal songs, sung by the Teofilović twins in a voice consisting of two voices merged into one.