Here is an exquisite instrumental duet recorded before the First World War by legendary primaš Vlado Marjanović and a talented rhythm guitarist named Ribarević. The track starts out with a beautiful march and ends with a fast paced circle dance called "Jeftanovićevo Kolo". Richard Spottswood's catalog of Ethnic Music on Records Vol.2 lists the name of this track as "Persički Turski". This recording was made in New York, in the summer of 1912.
From the beautiful old city of Sombor, in the Bačka region of Vojvodina, northern Serbia, came one of the greatest musicians of the early 20th century. Unfortunately very few people today have even heard the name Stevan Bačić-Trnda, let alone heard any of his recordings. An exceptionally talented violinist, a renowned bandleader, and an extraordinary vocalist, we are extremely fortunate to be able to hear his music today, a full century later.
Born in the village of Stapar in 1870, he grew up in nearby Sombor and studied violin from an early age with some of the city's most prominent musicians. Trnda went on to play in the tamburica orchestras of some of the greatest legends of his day, gaining vast knowledge and experience along the way. Eventually gathering together a group of his own, Trnda and his orchestra started out playing regular gigs at the best establishments in Sombor. A violin virtuoso, his unique style often pushed the boundaries of traditional folk music and set him apart from other musicians of his day. He was a powerful tenor, and his vocal style fit so perfectly with his playing that it was often hard to tell where one began and the other ended. As a band leader, Trnda's interpretations of the old songs were powerful, full of emotion, and whether elaborate or simple, they were always uniquely his own. In the first decade of the 20th century, Stevan Bačić-Trnda and his band were in real demand and played engagements all over Vojvodina, even touring Bosnia, in the process spreading the music that was popular back home. He also brought back many beautiful old Bosnian songs and melodies, sevdalinke, and even Serbian folk songs that were popular in Bosnia but hadn't been heard back home for generations. In the years before the First World War, Trnda and his orchestra traveled Europe and made an unknown number of recordings for the Gramophone Co., Beka, and others. Trnda was even invited to Chicago in 1928 along with a group of musicians from his
hometown of Sombor, including tambura legend Šanjika Grebenar. In 1930, Trnda traveled back to Vienna, Austria, to make what would be his last recordings. He was accompanied by another famous Sombor musician, gajdaš (bagpiper) Kosta Šarčanski-Koca. Between the 18th and 19th of September Stevan Bačić-Trnda, and his now smaller six piece tamburica orchestra, laid down 26 tracks of an amazingly wide variety, from old folk songs, to Bosnian sevdalinke, to starogradske pesme (old city songs). He also recorded a number of songs by contemporary composers like Marko Nešić, Mita Gruijć, and Stanislav Binićki. Trnda died just five years later, in 1935, in his hometown of Sombor.
Unfortunately, like so many Serbian artists who recorded before WWII, Stevan Bačić-Trnda's records are now few and far between. I was fortunate that my great-grandfather kept some of his records and was careful to preserve them. I've been able to find others along the way as well. The records I've posted below are some of my favorites. The orchestra sounds smaller than was usual for Trnda during this time period before WWI. The arrangements aren't as complicated and there's an intimate feel to them, somewhat more improvisational than some of his other early recordings. I think these four tracks are good examples of his unique and personal take on the old folk songs. Unfortunately I have yet to find anything from his 1930 Vienna sessions.
Thank you to my good friend Petar Stojkov who was so kind and helpful in providing me with historical information about Stevan Bačić-Trnda. He grew up in Sombor too, just down the street from the famous kafana "Ratar" where Trnda's orchestra entertained regularly at the turn of the century. Petar's great-grandmother even worked there as a chef in those days. Unfortunately, the "Ratar" was demolished some 50 years ago.
Here is another record with tambura legend Mirko Kolesar and his Blue Danube Tamburitza Orchestra. The first track features Nick Brozovich singing a gutsy rendition of "Poslušaću staru majku", a beautiful old song composed by another legendary tamburaš, Marko Nešić. Side B is a great version of an old tune from southern Serbia, "Zašto, Sike, zašto". Kolesar's version seems to be inspired by Serbian tenor Mijat Mijatović's famous recording of the song made in the late 1920's.
As was sometimes the case with these early releases, the orchestras were listed only as what type of group they were. It's very possible that this band went by another name, but the Victor Record Co. lists them here simply as "Srpski Muški Kvintet" (Serbian Male Quintet) or "Srpski Tamburaški Kvintet" (Serbian Tamburica Quintet). Some of the greatest tamburaši of the early 20th century can be heard on these recordings. Vaso Bukvić and Zdravko Jezdimir were founding members of the original Banat Tamburica Orchestra of Elizabeth, New Jersey (est.1912). They also went on to play in the "Yugoslavia" Tamburaško Društvo of Indiana Harbor, IN, together with another member of this band, Ćira Kozarov. The director of the "Srpski Muški Kvintet" was another legendary tamburaš, Sandor Huszar, an extremely talented musician, composer, and bandleader, he is probably most famous for the many recordings he made with Ilija Mišković in the 1920's. Rounding out this tamburitza quintet was bass vocalist B.V. Eliss.
This group of musicians recorded at least fourteen individual songs or instrumentals for the Victor company as the "Srpski Muški Kvintet" betweenMay and August of 1917. Unfortunately, it seems that only eight recordings were ever released. I've posted four of these tracks below.
The first record is a great instrumental medley of Serbian and Croatian songs and dances (side A is mostly songs, and side B is mostly dances). The second record starts with an upbeat old patriotic tune, "Napred Stupaj", also known as "Srbijanci i Bosanci", or "Kralja Petra Pesma". The flip side is a nice rendition of the popular old song "Oj devojko! Oj!", better known as "Ti si rajski cvet", featuring lead vocals by Ćira Kozarov.
These four great records feature legendary primaš, vocalist, and band leaderDušan Jovanović, one of the greatest - and least appreciated - musicians of the 20th century. These eight tracks were recorded in 1925 and 1926 with the "Orao" Tamburica Orchestra.
These three great records feature talented vocalist and musician Mitar Bulatovich. On four of the tracks he's accompanied by an amazing unnamed tamburitza orchestra (maybe the Serbian Radio Orchestra with violinists Mel Dokich and Danilo Kozarski?). On the other two tracks Mitar is singing and playing the accordion.
Mesećina divna sja Za tvoje crne oči
Malo ja, malo ti (Slavjanka) Zora zori, petli poju
Here's another great record by Vlado Konstantinović and Tamburaški Zbor "BANAT" featuring some wonderful folk songs (side two also ends with a great version of "Čergo moja čergice"). This is the third record I've posted by this group. You can listen to the other records here (patriotic songs) & here (recitation with music). I really wish I knew more about this orchestra.
Edo Ljubić was one of the most influential figures in American tamburitza music. When he arrived here from Yugoslavia in the late 1930's to perform at the Worlds Fair he was already a well established and extremely popular singer and musician. He performed in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and even had his own radio show in Belgrade, which only increased his popularity and landed him gigs all over Europe. Upon his arrival in America Edo was an instant sensation. His style was something new and fresh and marked a real turning point in the music. He played with all the great tamburitza musicians of the time and no doubt was a huge inspiration to all of them. His career lasted for decades and he recorded countless 78 rpms, 45's, and LP's with his own orchestras as well as many others. There's a nice biography of Edo Ljubić in English here; and one in Croatian here.
These recordings of Edo Ljubić with the Kapugi Brothers Tamburitza Orchestra are a great example of his collaboration with America's premier tamburaši. The arrangements for these four tracks are all by Edo. The first record features a beautiful old Bosnian song, "U Stambulu na Bosforu", one of his most famous recordings. The second record features Edo singing two famous old numbers. The first, "Neven Kolo", a dance composed by legendary Serbian band leader, tamburaš, and composer Marko Nešić of Novi Sad. The second is "Kad sam bio mlađan lovac ja", a famous song which is usually attributed to composer Marko Nešić, but which was in fact composed by Alojz Lesjak, a conductor from Šid and Vukovar.¹
¹ "Marko Nešić - Sa pesmom u narodu" Almanax, D. Tomić (urednik), Tiski Cvet 2009, Novi Sad
Johnny M. Latkovich and his Neven Tamburitza Orchestra from N.S. Pittsburgh, PA. perform a unique rendition of "Razbole se belo done", a song from renowned Serbian composer Stanislav Binički's "Mijatovke". The other side of the record is a nice version of the ever popular "Zaplet Kolo".
Milan Opacich's lifetime collection of vintage tamburitza string instruments was displayed for the first time in it's entirety by the Serbian Historical Society at St. Sava's Serb Fest 2011. Hundreds viewed the exhibit of photos, artifacts, and rare instruments complete with their descriptions. Featured were The Popovich Brothers, Crljenica Brothers, Steve Barich, and opera singer Danica Chirich (Diana Henery). A "Work in Progress" showed some of the steps and tools involved in building instruments. Visit St. Sava or contact Milan Opacich at: http://www.localbizblogs.com/stsava
The St. Sava Historical Society presents "Tambura Spectacular" to be held in the north wing of the church on August 5th, 6th, and 7th during the annual award winning "Serb Fest" of 2011.
A pictorial tribute to the late Steve Barich is being planned. Steve taught and directed the youngsters of the church to play tamburitza. The group was called the St. Sava Youth Tamburitza Orchestra and at times exceeded 70 youngsters. Steve was also a member of the excellent tambura orchestra called "Zora". This fall in California he will be awarded the hall of fame plaque posthumously.
Tamburitza fans will be able to view over 300 pictures of orchestras past and present. There will also be photos of many fine vocalists.
Another feature will be the display showing over 50 vintage instruments that will include Russian balalaikas and Greek bouzoukis as well as a large number of Tamburitzas by our most outstanding builders like Groeschl, Hlad, Bencic, Kovachevich, and many later contemporaries that followed.
For museum patrons to view there will be on hand a 26 year collection of the "Serb World, USA" magazines with subscription forms.
A conglomeration of jigs and fixtures for constructing tamburas will be shown with side tools that are necessary. Also to be seen will be an array of work in progress tamburitzas.
Tamburitza Extravaganza programs from the first program in 1971 to the present from last years event in 2010.
A Hall of Fame plaque issued to the late Vaso Bukvich will be on hand.
A continuous slide show on three monitors will be on at all times for the public to view tambura related events.
Historic tamburitza music will be shown, many by the master tambura musicians of long agao.
Drawings by the National Heritage Award winner Adam Popovich. Also for viewing will be his wrought iron tambura wall ornaments.
A complete set of hand carved wood miniature tamburitzas by Marko Popovich.
Steve Barich's hand crafted set of stainless steel tamburaši.
Mini tamburitza music boxes made from black walnut wood playing the theme song "Laura" from the movie "Doctor Zhivago".
Framed recording company logos that promoted tamburitza.
To be viewed the original prima tamburitza that was crafted in Washington D.C. during the Smithsonian fair named "Old Ways in the New World". This was part of America's bicentennial celebration. A duplicate prima will be raffled off during the three day fair.
In a place of honor will be the historic priceless gusla that belonged to the famous guslar "Perun".
A number of CDs will be on sale as well as Dusan Brankov's book showing how to build tamburitza instruments will be for sale. The book "Tamburitza America" will also be available for purchase.
Copies of the 1937 newspaper called "Tamburitza News" will be displayed and information on the tamburitza guild that followed.
A complete set of master luthier Andrew Groeschl's instruments will be in the display. They include a prima, brac, cello, and a tambura berda with it's carved back and top.
Steve Barich's first instrument a turtle backed prima along with another that belonged to the famous primaš Janika Balaz of Novi Sad.
A replica of a sheep herders "Samica".
A beautiful fretted stand up cello made by Ivan Hlad. This version of the cello was the predecessor of the held in arms cello. Along with it will be one of his outstanding turtle back primas.
The beautiful kontra Hlad created for the World Fair of 1933 that was held in Chicago, Illinois.
For guitar fans a copy of the guitar made famous by the greates Jazz player of all time, Django Reinhardt.
Tribute to two of America's greatest tamburitza orchestras, the Popovichs and their many long play recordings and the Crlenica Brothers with their long list of credits for the movies that they played the sound tracks for.
The Stauffer guitar of 1800 made in Germany. It was from this model of guitar that the tamburitza adapted the tuning buttons all on one side. Pictured along side the instrument is a photo of a group of Serbian Army cadets with their tamburas. On the far right rear two of the cadets are holding their converted Stauffer guitars that were re-altered to tamburitzas. The photo is from the 1850s. Almost one hundred years later guitar maker Leo Fender wrote that he saw a group of tamburasi playing and it was from their instruments he got the idea for the guitar tuners to be placed all one one side.
Place the dates August 5th, 6th, and 7th on your calendar and make sure you attend the "Tambura Spectacular" at St. Sava's mini museum on the north wing of the church.
Violinist, singer, and band leader Joca (Mlinko) Mimika, from the town of Mol in northern Serbia, was one of the greatest musicians of the early 20th century and we're extremely fortunate that he recorded so prolifically. The works of renowned Serbian composer and tamburitza musician Marko Nešić seem to make up a significant part of Mimika's discography, and this track, Ej gledaj muže(Ej vidiš muže kakvo mi je lice), is a great example. The free, improvisational style of this performance is typical of his soulful, heartfelt interpretations of Nešić's compositions.
These two beautiful songs were recorded in Serbia in the late 1920's with Sofka and an unnamed Gypsy (Rom) orchestra (possibly Sofka's husband's group). The first side features a lively version of Čuješ Seko with Sofka playing the tambourine. The second track, Zone mori Zone, from the play Zona Zamfirova (Зона Замфирова), based on Serbian author Stevan Sremac's book, is one of my all time favorite songs, and Sofka's intense, powerful interpretation makes this my favorite version as well.
OK, the music files should all be working now. Please let me know if any of the links don't work and I'll fix them. Thanks.
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This was one of the greatest tamburitza orchestras to record in the 1920's! Musicians such as Vaso Bukvić, Ćira Kozarov, and Vlado Marjanović were already legends when they came to the Yugoslavia Tamb. Društvo of Indiana Harbor, Indiana. The Bukvić brothers, Vaso and Mirko, were part of the original Banat Tamburitza Orchestra founded by Zdravko Jezdimir in 1912. Also in 1912, the amazing primaš and tenor Vlado Marjanović was making his famous recordings with Drago Ilkić for the Columbia recording studios. In 1917 Ćira Kozarov joined Vaso Bukvich and Zdravko Jezdimir tomake a number of recordings for RCA-Victor with the Srpskimuški kvintet, a renowned tamburitza orchestradirected by Sandor Huszar. Some of these incredibly talented musicians would go on to form this group, The Yugoslavia Tamburaško Društvo, in the early 1920's.
Jovan Stojković "Babunski"
About the songs: The first track, Komitska Pesma, an early version of the patriotic songSpremte Se Spremte Četnici (or Srpska mi truba zatrubi ) , dates back to 1908 after guerillas fought valliantly under the command ofSerbian Vojvoda Jovan Stojković "Babunski" (pictured at right) against Turkish regulars at the battle of Drenovo, in Macedonia. It was composed shortly after the battle by former Serbian Orthodox monk and četnik soldier Jeremija (Jovan) Grković "Gapon", (born in Orahovac, Prizren, in 1879, he was killed in the fighting at Kumanovo in 1912). This song became very popular in the United States after WWI and tamburitza legend Dušan Jovanović recorded his own version in November of 1925 for the Columbia record label in New York. With the onset of WWII Spremte Se Spremte was popularized again by such greats as Edo Ljubić, who recorded it on July 30, 1942 for RCA-Victor, and Raša Radenković and Mirko Marković who recorded a version for the Sonart label. This track was recorded on July 23, 1924 in Richmond, Indiana and features lead vocals by Vaso Bukvić.
The second track, Prošetaj Lelo(better known as Čini ne čini, or Ne luduj lelo), doesn't need much introduction. Written by Serbian poet and songwriter Milorad Petrović Seljančica, and composed by Stanislav Binički, this song was extremely popular and was performed and recorded by countless orchestras and choirs in Europe and the U.S.A. This track was recorded on July 23, 1924 and features vocals by Ćira Kozarov.
I'm so grateful to my friend Milan Opacich for giving me this rare treasure! Thanks Milan!
Here is another great old record by the Jorgovan Tamburitza Orchestra featuring Ilija Mišković, Djoko Dokić, Nikola Plavsić, Todor Petrović, and Mirko Kolesar. These two tracks were recorded in New York on June 24, 1926.
Kolo Branka Radičevića Sa pesmom
Sa tog polja Bojnog
I've updated the Jorgovan (Part 2) post with a better copy of Columbia 23035-F. I've posted it here as well...