For years, I have been following the customs and traditional events in the coastal and islands regions of Croatia. Using a camera and DAT I have been recording episodes, conversations and various events that I have experienced together with my informants. The person who introduced me to the magic of fieldwork and attracted me to the interesting musical phenomena of the area was Vidoslav Bagur. Choreographer, dancer, ethnologist and teacher, Vidoslav Bagur spent the last two decades on a scholarly crusade across the Croatian islands and coast, the hinterland and plain. As program counselor of the most prominent Croatian folk festival (International Folklore Festival in Zagreb), and as founder of the Folklore Festival of Dalmatia in Metkovic, he monitored existing folk traditions, searched for lost traditions and encouraged newly reconstructed traditions. His work shows that the participation of the researcher in the formation of cultural phenomena is possible, and that although his or her role is not necessarily crucial, it may still be necessary at certain times.
The local community needs support in the shape of outside confirmation, recognizing and acknowledging their activities and sharing their existence with the larger community. These are the activities that an ethnomusicologist and a ethnochoreologist can use to bring two completely different worlds closer: the local world, in which tradition is still a way of life, to a certain extent, and the global world, which tries to scientifically categorize and explain living tradition. Inspired by the diversity of the material available for this project, I have decided to present an introduction to the variety of the main genres and forms of musical life in Croatian islands, with some recently recorded video examples. I have tried to capture on film the process of reconstruction of the customs I noticed in the field as special and specific cultural phenomena, and their transformation, which in some cases I have been following since their very beginning until they attained their present form (2). The comments on each example contain short descriptions of certain customs and rituals, singing and dancing styles.
The filming of the first five examples took place during 2003 and 2004 during preparations and research for the 38th International Folklore Festival in Zagreb (3). The festival celebrated the 300th birthday anniversary of Franciscan Andrija Kacic Miosic, the author of the collection of the epic songs Razgovori ugodni naroda slovinskoga, published first in 1756 and then in 1759 in Venice. From Kacic's times until the second half of the 20th century his book was the most popular read in Southern Croatian regions, along Adriatic coast, islands and wider Hinterland, having seen numerous editions (Primorac 2004:15). The long epic songs were considered as entertainment and performed as part of local repertory of heroic songs. The project that included finding and preparing the unique music and dance performances of Kacic's songs on the Festival stage (most of them from the Croatian islands) was the work of Vidoslav Bagur.
The rest of the examples try to show the diversity of musical and dance styles on Croatian islands. Most of the video clips are recent examples of the most archaic traditional music and dance, still functioning parts of the customs, ritual and everyday life of the local communities. It is a sign of the vitality of local musical lives that still stand against the powerful processes of globalisation introduced by tourist industry. The most authentic archaic examples are Gospin plac from Jelsa on the island of Hvar, the same as kanat from Kolan or pivanje po musku wedding singing from Supetarska Draga. On the other hand, one can find interesting examples of the reconstruction of tradition. Nevijska koleda from Nevidjane, the island of Pasman, or social dances from Hvar, the island of Hvar, are good examples of the newly reconstructed traditions that resume once living traditions. On the other side, Kapetanski ples form Orebic is the clear example of the invention of tradition, destined precisely for incoming tourists.
The video example's presentation enables us to follow both sides of the story, the islanders and researchers (4) . The islander's side of the story tells us about their musical tastes and performing abilities. Dedication to the music and dance during the performance reflects their devotion to traditional values as a clear sign of their local identity.
On the other hand, this is also a good place to consider the role of ethnomusicologist as an individual responsible for accurate interpretation of the present circumstances (5). Is the picture that we construct always the picture? Does our own interpretation accurately reflect their own priorities? Researching the musical life on the islands I had opportunity to experience different views of the question: What exactly is traditional music?
Preparing myself for field research on Korcula (singing traditions of kumpanija) in 1997, I examined the written sources, audio and video material available at the archive of Institute of Ethnology and Folklore in Zagreb. I was particularly interested in the audio recordings and transcriptions made in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking through the musical examples made by researchers of recent times, one can easily gain the wrong impression of current traditional music on the island (6). The largest number of musical examples is of narrative songs, epic songs for gusle accompaniments, ojkanje songs, and weddings' songs. These musical examples belong among the older layer of traditional music, almost unknown on the island today. The majority of these examples are possibly remembered by the older members of the village populations, but they definitely want to push them into the background because they do not tally with the current music identity of the inhabitants of the island. In other words, the repertory is not only foreign to them in the musical sense but it is also not socially accepted. An extremely small part of this tradition is present in today's living musical practice of the island of Korcula.
What is the picture of the present musical practice and tradition of the most of the islands? The singing on the islands tends towards diatonic singing styles (7) . The singing style that contributed to the current situation is klapa singing, organized singing whose popularity and broad diffusion has been marked in the second half of the 20th century (Caleta 2003:245). Both male and female klapa groups are very numerous today and are popular in Croatia, especially throughout Dalmatia. Beside popular traditions of klapa singing, we must also mention the great tradition of church singing and the brass bands playing tradition, some of which, in these areas, are more than 100 years old. The blooming of various types of popular instrumental groups was favored by the growth of tourism. Commercialization of what was offered to tourists required both klapa ensembles, which were most appropriate for this purpose, and a large number of instrumental groups that were formed from local musicians who had emerged from the brass bands, and from musicians that played for traditional events (kumpanija, munde, sociji) (Caleta 2001b:40). It would be very difficult for such a flood of music styles that have the diatonic tempered system as their basis to be identified with the older layers of tradition.
One can conclude that the preoccupation with history and its reinterpretation among local communities and important ongoing changes are the main characteristics of the musical life of islands' communities - towns and villages. Historical processes that are result of confrontation between the global influences brought by the tourism from outside and the local communities who are trying to preserve their own system from inside contributed to the creation of well-defined local identities.
Forward | Main page