Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The River of Many Names Part 5: The Danube in Serbian Folk Music

(photo: Strudel, from Wikipedia Commons)

(photo: Iron Gate, from Wikipedia Commons)

If you're wondering why this post starts with a picture of strudel, read on, you will find out later.

Are you ready for another close encounter of the Danubian kind? This post takes us to Serbia for yet more folk songs from the Universe of You Tube.

I found a couple of folk songs about Dunav, the River of Many Names, from Serbia. One is fun and one is romantic, both of them are great to listen to.

The first video is a group of crazy musicians having a blast on a beautiful spring day. So they decide to take a boat on the river and sing a folk song (in English translation the title is Dunave, Dunave moje more (Danube, My Sea.) For some reason there are no women along for the ride, although they are watching on shore...why is that? Do the guys have a monopoly on music and fun?

The way these musicians carried on in the boat, I thought Dunave moje more would have been more of a party song, but the actual translation was something totally different. The gist of the song was that the person in the song sees Dunav day and night and that he has given his life to the river. (I presume he dreams about it, as well.) I have dreamed about it since I was eleven years old. And for me it's a recurring dream which pops up in my subconscious periodically.

The lyrics (in transliterated Serbian) are here, but there is no translation. I had to resort to Google Translate.


Despite the fact I was able to travel to Europe and actually camped out on the banks of the Danube 14 years after the first dream, the dreams haven't stopped. Now that is the persistence of memory at its finest. Except that I don't dream about melted clocks :)


The next video conveys a completely different mood, although the lyrics have a similarity to Dunave, Dunave moje more. This song conveys nostalgia and longing. From what I get from the translation (again, courtesy of Google) it's about a man who grew up along the Danube, who had to go far away, left his heart there, but still sees it in his dreams (the dream theme seems to be a recurring one....)

Next is a musician playing a lively kolo on an accordion, the most popular instrument in Serbia. The kolo is a folk dance popular in Serbia as well as Croatia. It is usually (but not always) done in a circle. You won't see any dancing in this video, except maybe for the accordionist's fingers moving over the keys. He does an amazing job with this piece; the name of it (in English) is Danubian Whirlpools.

Now it's time to see what inspired the composer of the previous piece of music. It has something to do with strudel.

Water is fascinating. Like the other elements of antiquity, fire, air and earth, each has its good side and its destructive side. The River of Many Names is no exception. Although the beauty of it is celebrated in poetry and folk songs, flood season wreaks havoc and destruction. In the city of Passau, Germany I saw buildings along the Danube with high water marks. Written next to them was the day, month and year of the flood, which in a few instances was as high as the second story of the building.

Then there are the mysterious whirlpools and cross-currents which can be dangerous if you're not careful. By the way, in German, strudel has two meanings; the first one is the fruit filled pastry that everyone knows and loves. The second meaning is that of a whirlpool or vortex, and something you definitely don't want to have for dessert. The music matches the mood of this video which looks quite ominous...

By the way, the caf├ęs in Passau have delicious strudel, and great coffee too. And if you go further down the Danube, to Vienna, you can get your strudel in fancy surroundings, like the Hotel Sacher.

If you enjoyed this post, you will also like the series The River of Many Names., parts 1-4. The first one is a musical journey.


Part two has songs and dances from Bulgaria related to the Danube:


Part three features folk ensembles from Bulgaria, Croatia, Great Britain and Israel named after the river.


Part four has more Bulgarian folk songs inspired by (what else?) Dunav, along with some stunning scenery and dancers in elaborate embroidered costumes.


If you didn't get enough Serbian folk music here, this post will satisfy your cravings as well as relieve your frustrations, since there are lots of dances with stamping!


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