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Various Artists
Vlaška muzička magija - Gergina 2009-2018
(The Magic of Vlach Music)

Review by Andrew Cronshaw

Listen Tomislav Buljigić (gajde) and ensemble
"Čežnja i Staro kolo"

The Vlach people are spread throughout the Balkans, largely as a result of their historical occupation of shepherding. Their language is a Romance language, un-standardized but closely akin to Romanian, rather than a Slavic one, and in Slavic-speaking Serbia the name Vlach has often been used to cover Romanian-speakers in the east of Serbia, and now they’re officially recognized as a national minority.

The Gergina festival presents Vlach music and culture from Serbia and beyond with concerts, competitions and exhibitions. It began in 2009 and takes place in the Stevan Mokranjac Cultural Centre in Negotin, a small town in eastern Serbia just a few kilometres from the junction of Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria and that long highway of cultures, the river Danube.

‘Gergina’ is the Vlach word for the dahlia plant, and it’s also the title of a song whose melody appears in three different guises on this album. It’s a double CD of performances by 51 groups and soloists in tracks chosen from the 2009-2018 festivals. The well-programmed variety of instrumental and vocal sounds and pace, and the skill and character of the performers – most of these are professionals – makes it a lively, multi-textured through-listen.

Listen Tihomir Paunovic (frula) and ensemble
"Petrovacko kolo"

Because of the mobility of Vlachs over the centuries, and their present settlement areas, their musical tradition shows the two-way interaction with others, particularly what we now think of as Serbian and Romanian musics, and touches of Bulgarian and Macedonian. In this collection there’s a lot of the fast chugging 2/4 of kolo, the music for the curving chain-dance that’s very common in Serbia (the word means ‘wheel’ in Serbian), legato songs and soaring melodies of a more Romanian style, and often the vocal or instrumental solo floats over a fast accompaniment.

Listen Slobodan Nedeljković (drombulje)

There’s a good range of instruments taking leads including trumpet, accordion, fiddle, sax, clarinet, jew’s-harp, bagpipe, frula (wooden whistle) and duduk (not the Armenian reed instrument of that name but a long, breathy wooden whistle), in most cases accompanied by tight bands with brass, accordions, drums and sometimes guitars. Most of the vocal soloists, male and female, are accompanied too, but there’s a fine unaccompanied solo from Jela Marjanović.

Listen Jela Marjanović
"Păduriće înkrengată- Razgranata šuma"

In the booklet, contained with the CD in a card sleeve, there is information in Vlach and Serbian about the festival, the Gergina association, the music and the players, plus photos, and inside the jewel-case is a separate leaflet with the English translation text.

This album seems to be currently rising up the world-music charts, which are compiled from panels of radio presenters and others, and deservedly so; indeed it would make a whole radio program on its own.

You will find more about the festival, as well as many hours of concert video, at The Gergina Association
Further reading: The Mystery of Vlach Magic in the Rural Areas of 21st Century Serbia

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