Sevdalinka Within the Framework of Bosniak Oral Literature
Dr. sc. Nirha Efendić
Sevdalinka is traditional muslim urban song characteristic for Bosnia and Herzegovina and much of the Balkans. Love songs as part of the Bosniak oral lyric poetry have been recorded since the very first case of appearance of this lyric form known to the scientific community in the year of 1574. However, more intense collecting and general interest in oral lyric poetry in Bosnia and Herzegovina started only in the Austrian-Hungarian period when the largest collections of oral lyric poetry from Bosnia and Herzegovina were composed. This paper will first offer a historical overview of recording and interest in oral lyric poetry, and then also provide theoretical characteristics of this poetry form with a review of themes and motives in selected examples…
The Sevdalinka as Bosnian Intangible Cultural Heritage: Themes, Motifs, and Poetical Features
Dr. sc. Nirha Efendić
This paper discusses interpretations, categorisations and inventories of the sevda- linka, an oral lyric tradition from Bosnia and one of the countryss most important examples of intangible cultural heritage. The sevdalinka represents traditional oral lyric poetry, a celebrated form of love song, which came into existence in urban places in a broader region of the Balkans as a fusion of the existing lyrical forms and Islamic inβluences. The term sevdalinka for this kind of songs became widely accepted only at the end of the 19th century. Before that, this oral lyrical tradition was usually called sevdalija. Both terms, sevdalinka and sevdalija, have their roots in the Arabic word sawd¢ adopted as sevdah (meaning love, desire, longing) via Turkish into the languages of some Balkan peoples. In todayss context, the sevdalinka is most often understood as a Bosnian (or more precisely, Bosniak) indigenous traditional love song. As an important part of the Bosnian intangible cultural heritage, ethnoloǦ gists, ethnomusicologists, folklorists and other scholars have often used the sevda- linka as a source and medium through which to explore various social, historical and cultural traditions in Bosnia. This paper will βirst provide a historical summary of the records, inventories and research interests in this oral lyrical genre and then offer an overview of the categorisations of the sevdalinka in specialized encyclopaedias and literary theory. Finally, by analysing themes and motifs found in sevdalinkas, the paper will discuss a number of scholarly examples from manuscripts published in late 19th and early 20th century in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The melancholy songs could go on for hours as they remembered dead and distant relatives, heroes, Begs, Pashas, and prominent cities like Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and even Stambolu na Bosforu (Istanbul on the Bosporus). The songs celebrated the ancient world and the recent past, reminding them of pain, ecstasy, and unrequited loves. Except for religion, reserved for the mosque, there was a song for everything – even one about making coffee! I understood a few words, but I could always identify “Majka moja!” It’s the Slavic version of mamma mia! Songs often involved mothers and the greater concept of Mother, the matriarch and hub of the family and your emotional, physical, and spiritual home. It’s the name you invoke when times are good or, more likely, bad. These threads make up the very essence of Sevdah music.
Named after the Turkish word for love, Sevdah is the traditional folk music of Bosnia-Herzegovina, based on poems by forgotten authors that survived through oral tradition, and provided inspiration for newer music. Sevdah had a big post-World War II resurgence and also attracted artists from other parts of Yugoslavia. Between the 1960s and 1980s, a score of singers dominated the airwaves, crossing borders to establish Yugoslav identity and unity. However, a Sevdah song (Sevdalinka) is not focused on the instrumental or vocal superiority of highly trained musicians – as evidenced by my family gatherings. It is neither an act nor a show: it’s about becoming the song by feeling the emotions, understanding the poet’s message, and experiencing the weight and texture of every word.
It is accepted that Sevdah began with the arrival of the Turks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but its prior origins and development are as mysterious as its sound. One of the oldest Bosnian Sevdalinkas dates to 1475 and is about a man called Mujo, a typical Muslim name that occurs in many songs.
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