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CROATIA - Ethno Music

from each part of Croatia


Croatian ethno music 
Although one of Europe's smaller states, Croatia is a country with an incredibly diverse folk tradition. In numerous regions of this land there occurs a dramatic meeting of the cultures of cautious Middle Europe, the exuberant Mediterranean and the harsh Balkans. It is therefore practically impossible to subsume Croatian music and dance culture under a common denominator and identity since it is concurrently living several identities. And as Croatia has not, as yet, reached its post-industrial phase in the technological sense, it can be described as a kind of ecological oasis. It also needs to be said that rural parts of Croatia still preserve some of the archaic folk customs in their ancient forms. In this country, folklore has not yet completely lost the power of daily ritual. The indigenous still retains its powerful rural sources in areas where civilization has not yet dismantled the immemorial links between nature and mankind.

This CD is a welcome combination of a traditional and contemporary approach to folklore heritage. Lado, the National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, presents to its listeners the achievements of numerous local collectors and interpreters of the wealth of national folklore, performed in a traditional manner. At the same time, listeners can also hear contemporary approaches to folk tunes performed by numerous and established ethno-performers, drawing inspiration for their interpretations from rock, jazz, pop...

The compilation observes the professional, ethnographic divisions of Croatia into Istria and the Littoral, the regions of Lika and Dalmatinska zagora, Dalmatia, Slavonia and Baranja, Podravina and Međimurje, and Central Croatia, or roughly speaking, the surroundings of Zagreb. All the specific, rather archaic, medieval music luxury of Istria and the Littoral is superbly presented in the composition Bregbalon, by Dario Marušić, a versatile instrumentalist and a tenacious researcher, as well as in Tararajčica and Naranča, performed by the rhapsodic "Putokazi". The choral achievements in the fullness of the music spirit of Istria are demonstrated by Lado in the song Katarina Zlata hći, while Tamara Obrovac, the First Lady of Istrian music, performs two of her own compositions: Črni malin and Šenica. It is, perhaps, in the music of Tamara Obrovac and her "Transhistria" ensemble that the best, indeed world class blend of tradition and a highly schooled auctorial personality has been achieved.

The rhythmically and ritually powerful and authentic, but above all patriarchal music heritage of the regions of Lika and Dalmatinska zagora, is presented by "Legen", a group which possessed the power of movement with its superbly received Kolo (from Vrlika), and again by Lado, with a typically guttural interpretation by male voices of Kreni kreno da krenemo.

A different Dalmatia, without the soothing part-singing of klapas, is presented by Lado through the song Podiglo se malo četovanje, and by the industrious promoter of electronic ethno-music, Hrvoje Cmić Boxer, with the number Lokrum (named after a tiny isle near Dubrovnik), in which electronic music blends with klapa-style singing. Mojmir Novaković, with the group Kries, presents a multilayered, almost multi-media composition Iz oblaka rosa pada - a complex blend of several songs. The sumptuous hues of wheat-growing Slavonia and Baranja are presented, in a more than worthy fashion, by Lado through the unbridled joy of the instrumental performance of Grajino kolo and the wholesome choral sound of Tri jetrve žito žele. But even this Pannonian area, traditionally a land of likeable rogues and tambouritzas, found its modern reflection in the Legen composition Jos u one, parts of which are going the evoke in those knowledgeable in matters of the world music scene, women's Bulgarian-style singing. Elegiac, melodious and deep, riverine, somewhat old Slavic nostalgia of Podravina and Međimurje undoubtedly reaches its authentic peak in the singing of Elzabeta Toplek, the popular "Tante Liza", a school cook from Međimurje, who interprets the spring Hungarian czardas hymn Protuletje se otpira. And then, there is of course Lidija Bajuk, with her exceptionally warm rendition of the ballad Sprevajaj me mila, and Dunja Knebl in the dramatic, and so very beautiful lyrical song Dej mi Bože joči sokolove. The energetic "Cinkuši" give a truly ebullient, joyous performance of Pet je kumi, while on the other hand Miroslav Evačić's rendering of Zbira junak deklice from Podravina is typically bluesy.

Central Croatia, at the crossroads of Central Europe and the Balkans, as if still hearing the thunder of hooves of Turkish hordes, carefully conceals its folk treasures. Lidija Bajuk's wonderful interpretation of Zaspo Janko, a real jewel of a song from Moslavina; Dunja Knebl's impressive rendering of Mjaka čerku sprejevala, from Turopolje; the Lado ensemble's strong performance of Tri devojke žito žele and Dobri denek, and Lado electro with its electronic version of the striking and lampooning song, 1pura2pandura which Ante Babaja's film Breza made widely known through Ante Babaja's film Breza - a song which gives a very plastic depiction of the mentality of the ordinary man of this kaykavian speaking area. The compilation, which had the impossible task of condensing a vast heritage into a single CD, is rounded off - and rightly so - with the song Izvir voda izvirala, interpreted by Mojmir Novaković, and "Kries". The song contains a recording of the voice of Niko Lucić from Brotnica, Konavle (surroundings of Dubrovnik), making a toast, accompanied by the original singing by four women. Thus, this ambitious compilation, produced by the Croatian National Tourist Board, selected and edited by Ivan Ivančan Jr., and his collaborator Antonija Kavaš, itself ends - symbolically and not without a message - with a form of compilation. To wit, the toast in question explains in a very few words of wisdom all the philosophy of rural life which has created and preserved the Croatian folk treasure of which this country has every right to be proud.


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