In class this season we sing “Kad Ja Podjoh” a “sevdalinka” from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The song tells the tale of a young man who, carrying a small white lamb, travels to the section of Sarajevo known as Bentbaša to seek the girl he loves. Sevdalinkas, also known as “sevdahs,” are slow, rich, harmonious Bosnian songs that often tell melancholic songs of love. Traditionally, sevdalinkas were performed by women, and most often a capella. In this version I do neither.
Let’s enjoy this video of some Bosnian folk singing some Bosnian folk.
The Balkan nation now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina had been home to primarily peaceful populations of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats for centuries before the 1992 question of whether the land would become independent, which a majority of Bosniaks and Croats desired, or remain part of Yugoslavia, a move favored by most Serbs, caused it to shatter. The country is still healing, and today two essentially autonomous entities compose it — the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All Around This World celebrates music as a way of uniting people even when almost everything else tears them apart. Can’t we all enjoy this Balkan folk song from Bosnia and find some way to get along…?
We’ll start our week in the Balkans by spending a few moments with the Slovenian polka.
Why start here? Trio Sliak’s accordion-playing in this video of course! Slovenia is a small and densely forested Balkan nation you’ll find an extreme amount of natural beauty, such as stunning mountain ranges, breathtaking waterfalls, even luxurious sandy beaches. There is also a diversity of climates, with warm Mediterranean winds wafting up toward towering Alps, and a depth and diversity of historical architecture, from Gothic churches to castles from all ages. Want to do there…? As if the Slovenian polka wasn’t enough.
This week in our online class we visited the now-independent countries on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan peninsula that used to compose the nation of Yugoslavia. Though many people from the former Yugoslavia share history, culture and language, the region is, and always has been, multi-ethnic — home to a mix of European and Asian cultures and peoples who would spend centuries living intermingled, literally as neighbors, until some kind of shift, externally imposed or of their own doing, would tear them apart. Thankfully in class we did much more singing than historical hand-wringing. Over the next week, we’ll learn even more.
Enjoy this week’s live class! If you want to join the fun, check out the livecast class schedule and contact me to be “in the room” on Zoom. If you can’t make it to Zoom, watch live classes, or watch anytime, on All Around This World’s facebook page. This week in class we sang “We Are Happy,” “May You All Prosper,” “Sto Mi E Milo,” “Tancuj Tancuj,” “Kad Ja Podjoh” and “Ketri Ketri.” We also celebrated the “Happy Old New Year” of Vasilica.
All Around This World adores lautari, and so should you.
The Romani are an ethnic group generally believed to have originated in northwestern India over 2300 years ago and to have migrated westward, ending up in most regions of Europe. For centuries many European Roma lived outside the mainstream, dwelling in impermanent “squatter” communities or in small, economically depressed villages — sometimes due to discrimination, other times, to maintain their own culture, by choice. Despite being held at arms’ length, Roma musicians, especially those from a sprawling “clan” of virtuosos known as “lautari,” like those see in this video, who earned respect due to their their musical prowess. All Around This World certainly respects them; especially the way they carry two millennia of music wherever the go.
This week in our online class we depart from our usual country-by-country routine to go off the beaten track with the Roma/Romani people and with Ashkenazic (Central and Eastern European-descended) Jews. Both groups have lived at one point or another in almost ever corner of Eastern Europe, and have been evicted from the same. Both groups have long histories full of unfathomable struggle, yet have somehow managed to survive. Both make music that bursts with joy and at the very same time can be so, so sad.
Enjoy this week’s live class! If you want to join the fun, check out the livecast class schedule and contact me to be “in the room” on Zoom. If you can’t make it to Zoom, watch live classes, or watch anytime, on All Around This World’s facebook page. This week in class we sang Nigun Simcho,” “We Are Happy,” “Shepherd’s Live Az Elet,” “Ketri Ketri,” and “Bulbes.” We also learned a little about Romani and Jewish/Klezmer Dancing.
Today is not a bad day — no day is a bad day — for a POLKA FLASH MOB.
Nowadays you can find a place to dance the Czech/Polish dance known as Polka in most large cities around the Western world, and not just in traditional Polish beer halls. There many kinds of Polka in the U.S.: Polish-American, Slovenian-American, Czech-American, Mexican-American and the Papago Pima, a German/Arizonan/Native American polka in sometimes called “the chicken scratch.” Polka may not be quite as popular in Asia, but don’t tell that to the enthusiastic dancers from this video’s Tokyo Polka Flash Mob.
In class we danced the Czech and Polish polka, and WE LOVE IT.
While the quick, “half-step” polka actually originated in the Czech land of Bohemia and became popular when Viennese composers wrote polkas in the 19th century, the Poles adopted the dance and made it the centerpiece of many popular cultural celebrations. When Poles emigrated to countries like the U.S. they brought the dance with them. We’re so glad they did. So are our friends Betty and Merlin, who we meet in this video dancing the Polish polka on their 50th wedding anniversary.