Balkan music

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Balkan music is a type of music found in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. The music is characterised by complex rhythm. Famous bands in Balkan music include Taraf de Haïdouks, Fanfare Ciocărlia, and No Smoking Orchestra.

Historical musical influences[edit]

Byzantine medieval music[edit]

Byzantine music (Greek: Βυζαντινή Μουσική) is associated with the medieval sacred chant of Christian Churches following the Constantinopolitan rite. Its modal system is based on the ancient Greek models. The development of large scale hymnographic forms begins in the fifth century with the rise of the kontakion, a long and elaborate metrical sermon, which finds its acme in the work of Romanos the Melodist (sixth century). Heirmoi in syllabic style are gathered in the Irmologion, a bulky volume which first appeared in the middle of the tenth century and contains over a thousand model troparia arranged into an octoechos (the eight-mode musical system) and the whole system of Byzantine music which is closely related to the music of ancient Greece.

Greek music[edit]

Greek folk music includes Demotika, Cretan and Nisiotika, Pontian, Laiko and Rebetiko. Greek music developed around the Balkans as a synthesis of elements of the music of the various areas of the Greek mainland and the Greek islands, with Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical chant, and a reference to music of Crete and Byzantine music. The music of the Aegean Islands, are known for Nisiótika songs; Greek characteristics vary widely. Crete has a well known folk dance tradition; it includes swift dances like pentozalis. Most of the Greek folk songs are accompanied by Greek musical instruments like: lira, clarinet, guitar, violin and sometimes mandolin. Greek folk dances include Kalamatianos, Syrtos and Sousta.

Ottoman music[edit]

Dimitrie Cantemir was a composer of Ottoman music. Many musical instruments were introduced to the Balkans during the time of Ottoman control, but many Ottoman instruments were borrowed by the locals.

"Balkan" is a Turkish word which means sharp mountains. As this the influence of Mehter and Turkish rhythms and melodies can be seen in Balkan Music. In the 19th century in imitation of the Turkish military bands which replaced the mehterhâne formations of Janissary Turks beginning in 1828. Apparently, as in Turkey, they dethroned the ancient traditional oboe (zurna, zurla, or mizmar) and double-membraned drum ensembles.

Pre-modern Balkan music[edit]

Traditional Bulgarian music[edit]

Traditional folk instruments in Bulgarian music include various kinds of bagpipes (gaida and kaba gaida); drums (tapan); tarambuka; bells; daire; clapper; zilmasha; praportsi. Woodwind diple: zurla; kaval; duduk; dvoyanka; ocarina; accordion. String instruments: gadulka; tambura; fiddle; mandolin; guitar and gusle.

Traditional Serbian music[edit]

During the Nemanjic dynasty, musicians played an important role in the royal court, and were known as sviralnici, glumci and praskavnici. Other rulers known for the musical patronage included Stefan Dušan, Stefan Lazarević, and Đurađ Branković. Medieval musical instruments included horns, trumpets, lutes, psalteries and cymbals.

Derivatives and world music[edit]

Romanian and Romani brass band[edit]

Fanfare Ciocărlia got many fans in Europe with their powerful brass sound appealing to rock and rave fans as well as the world music audience. In 1997 Ernst and Neumann took Fanfare Ciocărlia into Bucharest's Studio Electrecord to record their debut album. The album, Radio Pascani, was released on the Berlin record label Piranha Musik in 1998 and proved an instant success. Another popular band in Romania was Taraf de Haïdouks.[1]

Progressive Balkan folk[edit]

Progressive Balkan folk has seen rise in many western countries, particularly the United States. It has had its greatest success with progressive communities across the country. Younger American generations are discovering the possibilities of this genre and are bringing it to small clubs and festivals across the US.

The upbeat, dramatic tone of the music has also attracted a following in the Tribal Fusion bellydance community. Tribal Fusion does not claim to emulate traditional dances, costume or music styles strictly, but it does draw inspiration from Balkan traditions.

Balkan soul and funk[edit]

Bay Area, CA band Inspector Gadje plays mainly traditional and contemporary balkan dance tunes, but because of the varied background of its musicians, elements of jazz and experimental music can be heard.

Brooklyn-based Slavic Soul Party! is a virtuoso ensemble of brass musicians that infuse traditional balkan rhythms and beats with jazz, soul, funk and the energy of dance pop.

British based band Sam and the Womp have rooted their music in the Balkan funk style to create a modern feel along with catchy and energetic rhythm.

Oakland, CA based artist Balkan Bump mixes Eastern European diasporic music with Electronic Music and Hip Hop.

Flamenco Balkan crossover[edit]

Another popular exploration has been between Balkan music and other styles around the Mediterran like Flamenco, Jazz and Middle-Eastern music. Vancouver based act Ivan Tucakov and Tambura Rasa explores this style and beyond.

Balkan beats[edit]

Traditional Balkan music mixed with modern, electronic beats: this genre first appeared in the Berlin underground scene in the mid-1990s. The term was coined by Berlin DJ Robert Soko, whose BalkanBeats monthly parties still continue nowadays. It then spread to the European and world scene, to become an established genre nowadays.[2]

Music per country and ethnicity[edit]

Notable artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nonesuch Records Taraf de Haïdouks".
  2. ^ Rossig, Rüdiger (11 June 2006). "Punk den Balkan". Taz. Retrieved 10 October 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mhlongo, Zinaida. «'Hopa!': exploring Balkanology in South African popular culture». Diss. 2014.
  • Lauseviâc, Mirjana. A Different Village: international folk dance and Balkan music and dance in the United States. UMI, 1999.
  • Marković, Aleksandra. "Goran Bregović, the Balkan Music Composer." Ethnologia Balkanica; 12 (2008): 9–23.
  • Dawe, Kevin. Regional Voices in a National Soundscape: Balkan music and dance in Greece. (2007): 175–192.
  • Buchanan, Donna A., ed. Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Political Discourse. Scarecrow Press, 2007.
  • Kremenliev, Boris. "Social and Cultural Changes in Balkan Music." Western Folklore; 34.2 (1975): 117–136.
  • Samson, Jim. "Borders and bridges: Preliminary thoughts on Balkan music." Musicology (497)(5) (2005): 37–55.
  • Rice, Timothy. "Bulgaria or Chalgaria: the attenuation of Bulgarian nationalism in a mass-mediated popular music." Yearbook for Traditional Music; 34 (2002): 25–46.
  • Samson, Jim. Music in the Balkans. Brill, 2013.
  • Kurkela, Vesa. "Music media in the Eastern Balkans: Privatised, deregulated, and neo‐traditional." International Journal of Cultural Policy; 3.2 (1997): 177–205.
  • Archer, Rory. "Assessing turbofolk controversies: Popular music between the nation and the Balkans." Southeastern Europe; 36.2 (2012): 178–207.
  • Pennanen, Risto Pekka. "Lost in scales: Balkan folk music research and the Ottoman legacy." Muzikologija; 8 (2008): 127–147.
  • Kovaćić, Mojca. "The Music of the Other or the Music of Ours: Balkan Music among Slovenians." First Symposium of ICTM Study Group for Music and Dance in Southeastern Europe. 2008.
  • Jakovljević, R. "The Fearless Vernacular: Reassessment of the Balkan Music Between Tradition and Dissolution." Muzičke prakse Balkana: etnomuzikološke perspektive : zbornik radova sa naučnog skupa održanog od 23. do 25. novembra 2011 : primljeno na X skupu Odeljenja likovne i muzičke umetnosti od 14.12.2-12, na osnovu referata akademika Dejana Despića i Aleksandra Lome = Musical practices in the Balkans : ethnomusicological perspectives : proceedings of the International Conference held November 23 to 25, 2011 : accepted at the X meeting of the Department of Fine Arts and Music of 14.12. 2012., on the basis of the review presented by Academicians Dejan Despić and Aleksandar Loma; eds.: Dejan Despić, Jelena Jovanović, Danka Lajić-Mihajlović. Beograd: Muzikološki institut SANU,2012.
  • Pennanen, Risto Pekka. "Balkan Music Between East and West—Some Problems in Analysis." Research paper, University of Tampere (1994).
  • Shehan, Patricia K. "Balkan women as preservers of traditional music and culture." Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective (1987): 45–53.
  • Blom, Jan-Petter. "Principles of rhythmic structures in Balkan folk music." Antropologiska Studier 25.26 (1978): 2–11.
  • Volcic, Zala, and Karmen Erjavec. "Constructing transnational divas: Gendered production of Balkan Turbo-folk music." (2011): 35–52.
  • Muršič, Rajko. The Balkans and Ambivalence of its Perception in Slovenia: the Horror of “Balkanism” and Enthusiasm for its Music. na, 2007.
  • Pettan, Svanibor. "Balkan Popular Music? No, Thanks: The View from Croatia." Balkan Popular Music. 1996.
  • Baker, Catherine. "The politics of performance: Transnationalism and its limits in former Yugoslav popular music, 1999–2004." Ethnopolitics 5.3 (2006): 275–293.
  • Friedman, Victor A. "Codeswitching in Balkan Urban Music." Urban Music in the Balkans: Drop-out Ethnic Identities or a Historical Case of Tolerance and Global Thinking (2006): 40–54.
  • Kolar, Walter W. An Introduction to Meter and Rhythm in Balkan Folk Music. Duquesne University Tamburitzans Institute of Folk Arts, 1974.
  • Irwin, Frances Mary. A comparison of two methods for teaching irregular meter to elementary school students using Balkan folk music. Diss. Washington University, 1984.
  • Burton, Kim. "Balkan beats: Music and nationalism in the former Yugoslavia." World music: The rough guide (1994): 83–94.
  • Archer, R. "Western, eastern and modern: Balkan pop-folk music and (trans) nationalism." C. Leccardi et al.(eds.) (1989): 187–204.
  • Petrovic, Ankica. "The Eastern Roots of Ancient Yugoslav Music." Music\= Cultures in Contact: Convergences and Collisions (2014): 13.
  • Rasmussen, Ljerka Vidić. Bosnian and Serbian popular music in the 1990s: Divergent paths, conflicting meanings, and shared sentiments. na, 2007.