Notes from author Richard March:
The Tamburitza Tradition: From the Balkans to the American Midwest is a book about music, and of course it is important to hear the music and see the musicians in order to better appreciate the book. While it was possible only to include a limited number of images in the book, I have many more (see additional Tamburitza Tradition images in our image gallery). Moreover, tamburitza enthusiasts have developed web pages and posted videos of tamburitza performances on YouTube, so it is possible to see and hear an abundance of tamburitza performances of all kinds.
I recommend visiting the following websites:
Steven Kozobarich’s fantastic website features the historic recordings on 78rpm discs of Serbian and Croatian-American and a few European tamburaši. He includes recordings of several of the performers and groups discussed in the book. There are also images of several of them.
For a more focused selection of early tamburitza recordings, this page offers 45 second samples of all 48 tracks on a two-CD reissue by Arhoolie Records of 78 rpm discs recorded by American and European tamburasi. I was pleased to work with Arhoolie founder Chris Strachwitz and tamburitza expert John Filcich on this project.
This is the website of the Tamburitza Association of America, a prominent organization promoting tamburitza music, and hosting an annual gathering the “Tamburitza Extravaganza.” On their site, under the category “Orchestras” there is a comprehensive list of all past and current member ensembles. There are photos of many of the bands and contact information for the active ones. Under the “Awards” category, you can find the Hall Of Fame, which features biographical information on the hundreds of awardees.
The largest Croatian-American fraternal organization has done much to stimulate and organize amateur tamburitza instruction and performance, sponsoring annual gatherings of youth and of adult ensembles. Under “Fraternal Programs” then “Cultural” there are more than 40 photos of the junior and adult tamburitza orchestras.
The following links provide an entry point into the vast quantity of tamburitza-related material on YouTube. The videos range from professional productions to amateur efforts. Regardless of their technical quality, each offers a window into an aspect of the tamburitza tradition. Remember that these are entry points and I highly recommend exploring the related videos that YouTube suggests.
Rajko Simeunović-“Na prijestolu sjedi Sultan” (The Sultan
sits on the throne)
Rajko Simeunović, a celebrated Bosnian sazlije (saz player)
sings a classic song at Folk-Fest in Sarajevo, 1991. The complete song lyrics
are offered in Bosnian.
This video takes us into a living room where the trio Šeširdžije (the hat wearers—and indeed they are wearing hats!) sing and play in the typical informal manner of the Bosnian music that its practitioners call “izvorna” (authentic). The song’s title, “Šargiju mi razbili barabe,” means “Hooligans broke my šargija.”
is a well-produced video of samičar (samica player) Marinko Dekanić from the Slavonian village of Rokovci. His song “Spavaj ženo ja idem divojki” means “Go to sleep my wife, I am going to see my girlfriend” he follows the song with a dance tune “Šokačko kolo.”
Large Tamburitza orchestras
This video features a segment from a concert by a large orchestra 160 tamburaša that is assembled annually for special concerts. On this video they perform popular songs recently composed for tamburitza: “Zbog tebe” (Because of you) and “Tena” (a woman’s name), conducted and arranged by Siniša Leopold.
Subotički tamburaški orkestar, one of the finest large tamburitza orchestras is based in Subotica, a small city in northern Vojvodina, near the Hungarian border. They play “Panonski čardaši,” a suite of folk tunes performed in the classical manner.
Tamburitza combos (American)
The Popovich Brothers Tamburitza Orchestra-“Žabaljka” Older recordings of American tamburaši are posted on YouTube with still photos of the group or record label. “Žabaljka” is a humorous song composed by Marko Nešić, performed by the Popovich Brothers.
“The Popovich Brothers of South Chicago” is a one-hour documentary film about this important Serbian-American tamburitza combo and their community, made by Jill Godmillow in 1978.
The Kapugi brothers, Martin, Frank, Louis and Adam, had one of the outstanding American tamburitza combos. The song “Mladi kapetane” (Oh, young captain) is from the time of the 1912-13 Balkan Wars.
Dave Zupkovich became a prominent singing star on Chicago’s Balkan Records. The photo on the video is unrelated. An actual photo of his band is presented on this site among the additional photos for Chapter 7. The song “Jesen prodje” (autumn is passing) is typical of his style.
The tamburitza combo of Milan Verni was another of the most influential tamburitza combos. There are complete lyrics to the song “Moja Bosno, moje živovanje” (Oh, my Bosnia, my life).
T Rroma is an outstanding contemporary tamburitza combo from Chicago who specialize in performing in the Romani style. The song “O Ciganko moja” (Oh, my gypsy girl) is typical of their repertoire featuring the powerful lead singing of Joe Kirin.
Milan Opacich in 1990 playing prim and singing the lead part on songs “Koliko Te Srce Moje Vole” (That’s how much my heart loves you) and “Tera Lenka” (Lenka is herding) with an “all star” orchestra of his musician friends: George Ivancevich, Joe Kirin, Joe Gornick, Misko Jurkovich, Petar Plechas, Joe Modrich, Toma Vucinich, Muz McKennas, and John Bukvich, Steve Paulich, Rich Savage, Frank Jovanovich, and Rich Krilich.
There ought to be better-produced videos of Otrov, one of the finest contemporary American tamburitza combos. Here they were filmed at the National Folk Festival in Lowell, MA doing their signature song, “Selo moje malo” (My little village) with a lawn chair prominently featured in the video!
Tamburitza combos (European)
The legendary combination of the orchestra of Novi Sad’s Romani primaš Janika Balaž with the singer and song writer Zvonko Bogdan was arguably the most influential musical aggregation in the history of tamburitza. The song “Osam tamburaša” (eight tamburitzans), a Bogdan composition, celebrates the Balaž orchestra and their most memorable and long-term playing engagement in the restaurant in the Petrovaradin fortress.
Krunoslav “Kičo” Slabinac is one of the most popular Croatian singers, both in pop music and in tamburitza. The song “Tamburaši samo svirajte” (tamburitzans, just play) is a good example.
This band, originally formed in 1983 as the Zlatni Dukati (The Golden Ducats) audaciously renamed themselves Najbolje Hrvatski Tamburaši (The best Croatian tamburaši) in 1997. They have recorded extensively and over the years their personnel has changed as well. This video “Sve ću prodat sutra” (I’ll sell everything tomorrow) was professionally produced.
Music and Dance ensembles
This video is from a television broadcast of an entire concert commemorating the 52nd anniversary of Lado, the Croatian national folk dance troupe. Ihe program features songs and dances of numerous Croatian regions.
This is an amateur video taken from the audience at the 2012 CFU Junior Cultural Federation’s gathering in Detroit. It captures the entire program of the Milwaukee CFU Tamburitzans, one of the participating groups.
This is a video of the complete program of a legendary 2003 concert, Bosno moja poharana, in Sarajevo featuring Safet Isović, a leading exponent of sevdalinka. It was perhaps the most sumptuous production of sevdalinka ever. The viewer needs to be patient through the first ten minutes of the more than two hour concert which comprised a video presentation and poetic invocation before the more typical sevdalinka begins.
This video provides a selection of several sevdalinka and narodnjak songs by some of the best known Bosnian singers: Zaim Imamović, Safet Isović, Lepa Brena, Beba Selimović, Hanka Paldum, Zehra Deović, etc.