Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stevan Bačić-Trnda (part II)

Stevan Bačić-Trnda
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.

Svu noć ja lego ne zaspa

Kad ja pođoh u đul baštu


Tuga me mori

Gine vene srce u menika

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mirko Kolesar (part II)

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.

Poslušaću staru majku

Zašto, Sike, zašto

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Srpski Tamburaški Kvintet (1917)

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" between May 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. 

Potpuri Srpsko-Hrvatskih pesama-I

Potpuri Srpsko-Hrvatskih pesama-II


Napred stupaj!

Oj devojko! Oj!