A Little Journey to the Balkan Music

by Ayşenur Çenesiz

On the Balkan cultural diversity, Ayşenur Çenesiz has written a blog and listed her five of the favorite songs from the Balkan music. The Balkan Peninsula embodies diverse cultures from east to west and south to north. Cultural products, like songs, constitute a bridge among the societies.


I’ve first met the Balkan Music with Ayde Mori, an album that compiles songs from different parts of the peninsula. It was pioneered by Muammer Ketencoğlu and includes some of the most well-known artists like Brenna MacCrimmon, Sumru Ağıryürüyen and Cevdet Erek. Their enthusiasm and excitement towards their arts made me attracted to their music.

Jarnana, Turkish readers would remember this song from a famous Turkish TV series called Elveda Rumeli, is one of the Albanian folk songs. MacCrimmon had learned this catchy song from an ethnomusicologist, Jane Sugarman and she had heard it from Albanian speaking people near the lake Prespa located in the intersection point of Albanian, Greek and Macedonian borders.

Razbolese Tsare Suleyman

I cannot find the peace and tranquility that “Razbolese Tsare Suleyman” gives me in any other song. Ketencoğlu had learned this song from a Serbian musician, Predrag Cune Gojkoric. It is also possible to find the traces of Ottomans. Lyrics of this song is Bosnian. It narrates a mini dialog between Sultan Suleiman and his son Sehzade Ibrahim. “Sultan Suleiman became ill, on the seventh day of Sehri Ramadan. Son Ibrahim asked him, O my father, Suleiman sultan, Do you regret, father, dying? Do you regret the Empire and Istanbul? Suleiman sultan answers, O my young son Ibrahim, I don’t regret dying. Nor do I regret Istanbul. But I regret leaving shachar Bosnia.”

Lule Lule

Another band that contributed to the Balkan Music with its amazing songs is Barcelona Gypsy Balkan Orchestra. Actually, as they stated in their website, this band is interested in Klezmer Music which is identified with Jews, but they have extended their sources of inspiration to be able to touch different cultures. The Balkan Peninsula, which could preserve its multicultural nature despite of the political and geographical struggles, has been one of these sources.

“Lule Lule” is another Albanian song narrating the migration of them to Italy after the Ottomans conquered Albania and Skanderbeg, a national hero, passed away. I’m sure you’ll love the song with Sandra Sangio’s voice!

Jovano, Jovanke

Love theme is the essential part of the Balkan music. Generally, the lovers who cannot come together because of religious, status or wealth differences are the main characteristics of these songs. “Jovano, Jovanke” is one of the well-known love songs in the Balkans. It belongs to the, specifically, Macedonian region. In the song, a lover calls for his beloved one called Jovano who sits by the side of the Vardar River. These lovers cannot meet because Jovano’s mother does not give her consent. When I listen this song from Gothart (evolved from a historical music ensemble), I lost into thoughts on which differences might make their love impossible…

San To Metanasti

San To Metanasti is a song which Zülfü Livaneli and well-known Greek musician Maria Faradouri sing together. In fact, it was translated from the song of Zülfü Livaneli called “Kardeşin Duymaz” into Greek. The title of the Turkish song means, “your brother doesn’t hear you”. Not only in this song but also in their concerts given either individually or together, Livaneli and Faradouri always underline the importance and necessity of friendship between Turkey and Greece. When I listen San to Metanasti, I believe in the power and energy of music which can give hand to the long distances between hearts.

Deariness and happiness, pains and passions, poverty and wealthiness… So many things can be shared with the inclusive nature of music. Balkans have also this potential, although problems seem unsolvable, people seem unmerciful, wounds seem unhealable from time to time. To live side by side, we must remember what is common instead of what divides us. We must care instead of neglect. We must heal instead of wound. And music can help us to do these.

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