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Gusle

Gusle

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The Gusle is a single-stringed musical instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

 (and musical style) traditionally used in the Dinarides
Dinaric Alps
The Dinaric Alps or Dinarides form a mountain chain in Southern Europe, spanning areas of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro....

 region of the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 (Southeastern Europe).

The gusle is a derivative of the lyra
Byzantine lyra
The Byzantine lyra or lira , was a medieval bowed string musical instrument in the Byzantine Empire and is an ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin. In its popular form the lyra was a pear-shaped instrument with three to five strings, held upright and played by stopping...

that was widely used throughout the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 beginning in the 9th century. The lyra has survived in many variations in the post-Byzantine regions in almost exactly the same way.

The instrument is always accompanied by singing; musical folklore, specifically epic poetry
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

. The gusle player (guslar) holds the instrument vertically between his knees, with the left hand fingers on the strings. The strings are never pressed to the neck, giving a harmonic and unique sound.

Etymology


The term gusle/gusli/husli/husla is common term to all Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 and denotes a musical instrument with strings. The gusle should, however, not be confused with the Russian gusli, which is a psaltery-like instrument; nor with the Czech term for violin, housle.

Varieties


The varieties of the guslar music are based on cultural basis; the content of each group is different, as different epic poems are used to accompany the instrument. Vocality
Vocality
Vocality or special vocal effects are vocal or vocally inspired devices including guttural effects, interpolated vocality, falsetto, blue notes, Afro-melismas, lyric improvisation, and vocal rhythmization. All of the listed devices are attributes of African vocality and are used to emotionalize...

 provides the main difference to be found across every region concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

, Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

, Montenegro
Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

 and Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, while Albanians also use the Albanian language. The instrument itself is identical, only the design of the neck and head changes; the Serbian gusle has Serbian motif etc.

The gusle consists of a wooden sound box
Sound box
A sound box or sounding box is an open chamber in the body of a musical instrument which modifies the sound of the instrument, and helps transfer that sound to the surrounding air. Objects respond more strongly to vibrations at certain frequencies, known as resonances...

, the maple being considered as the best material (therefore often the instrument is referred to as "gusle javorove" - maple gusle), covered with an animal skin and a neck with an intricately carved head. A bow
Bow (music)
In music, a bow is moved across some part of a musical instrument, causing vibration which the instrument emits as sound. The vast majority of bows are used with string instruments, although some bows are used with musical saws and other bowed idiophones....

 is pulled over the string/s (made of horsetail), creating a dramatic and sharp sound, expressive and difficult to master. The string is made of thirty horsehairs. The most common and traditional version is single-stringed (in Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

, Montenegro
Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 and Zagora
Zagora (Croatia)
Zagora , sometimes also called Dalmatian Zagora , is the southern inland region of Croatia. The name Zagora means "behind hills", which is a reference to the fact that it is the part of Dalmatia that is not coastal....

 in Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

), while a much less version is the two-stringed (in Bosanska Krajina
Bosanska Krajina
Bosanska Krajina or Bosnian Frontier is a geographical region, a subregion of Bosnia, in western Bosnia and Herzegovina enclosed by three rivers - Sava, Una and Vrbas. It is also a historic, economic and cultural entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina....

 and in Lika
Lika
Lika is a mountainous region in central Croatia, roughly bound by the Velebit mountain from the southwest and the Plješevica mountain from the northeast. On the north-west end Lika is bounded by Ogulin-Plaški basin, and on the south-east by the Malovan pass...

 in Croatia). They are held between the legs with the long neck supported on one thigh.

Albanian Lahuta




The equivalent of the Slavic gusle is the lahuta, which is used by Gheg Albanian
Gheg Albanian
Gheg is one of the two major varieties of Albanian. The other one is Tosk, on which standard Albanian is based. The dividing line between these two varieties is the Shkumbin River, which winds its way through central Albania....

s of northernmost Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 (Malesia) for the singing of epic songs. The word lahuta is derived from the word lute
Lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....

(see ), although the latter describes another family of European stringed instruments.

It is played by a rapsodi. The Albanian songs are octosyllable, in relation to the Decasyllable
Decasyllable
Decasyllable is a poetic meter of ten syllables used in poetic traditions of syllabic verse...

 Serbian, and a more primitive type of rhyming is regular.

The use of Lahuta has deteriorated, and is now only traditionally mastered in remote villages of the Malësi e Madhe District
Malësi e Madhe District
The Malësi e Madhe District is one of the thirty-six districts of Albania, part of Shkodër County. It has a population of 36,091 , and an area of 555 km². It is in the north of the country, and its capital is Koplik...

. The epic songs are mostly sung accompanied by the çifteli, which has replaced the use of the lahuta.

Croatian Gusle


The Gusle has been used by the Croats
Croats
Croats are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and nearby countries. There are around 4 million Croats living inside Croatia and up to 4.5 million throughout the rest of the world. Responding to political, social and economic pressure, many Croats have...

 in Herzegovina
Herzegovina
Herzegovina is the southern region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While there is no official border distinguishing it from the Bosnian region, it is generally accepted that the borders of the region are Croatia to the west, Montenegro to the south, the canton boundaries of the Herzegovina-Neretva...

, the South Croatian hinterland
Zagora (Croatia)
Zagora , sometimes also called Dalmatian Zagora , is the southern inland region of Croatia. The name Zagora means "behind hills", which is a reference to the fact that it is the part of Dalmatia that is not coastal....

, Lika
Lika
Lika is a mountainous region in central Croatia, roughly bound by the Velebit mountain from the southwest and the Plješevica mountain from the northeast. On the north-west end Lika is bounded by Ogulin-Plaški basin, and on the south-east by the Malovan pass...

, as well as in Bosnia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina , sometimes called Bosnia-Herzegovina or simply Bosnia, is a country in Southern Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Bordered by Croatia to the north, west and south, Serbia to the east, and Montenegro to the southeast, Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost landlocked, except for the...

 and Western Bosnia as an accompaniment for epic poetry for hundreds of years. Often they were constructed by the singers and players themselves, shepherds or even by specialized Gusle builders from urban areas.


Most lyrics center around historical figures who played an important role in Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

n history (often folk heroes who died tragical deaths, such as hajduk
Hajduk
Hajduk is a term most commonly referring to outlaws, highwaymen or freedom fighters in the Balkans, Central- and Eastern Europe....

s) or significant historical events (mostly battles against invaders or occupying powers).

Perhaps the most famous Croatian guslar poets was Andrija Kačić Miošić
Andrija Kacic Miošic
Andrija Kačić Miošić was a Croatian poet and Franciscan monk.Born in Brist near Makarska, he became a Franciscan monk. He was educated in Zaostrog monastery and Buda...

, an 18th century monk who created and collected many gusle lyrics and songs throughout the regions, which are still sung today. Croatia's most famous contemporary guslar (gusla player) is Mile Krajina
Mile Krajina
Mile Krajina is a noted gusle player in Croatia, who sings traditional folk songs.Many of his songs are about his birthplace Oklaj in the Cetina region. He mentions reading the works of famous Croatian poet Andrija Kačić Miošić in primary school as an early influence for his poems and songs...

. He is known for referring to current topics in his songs and for his performances within the scope of political rallies or commemoration days (e.g. commemoration s for the Bleiburg massacre
Bleiburg massacre
The Bleiburg massacre, which also encompasses Operation Keelhaul is a term encompassing events that took place during mid-May 1945 near the Carinthian town of Bleiburg, itself some four kilometres from the Austrian-Slovenian border....

 or the death marches of Jazovka
Jazovka
Jazovka is a pit in the Žumberak area of Croatia where the bodies of approximately 500 Croatian soldiers and civilians were dumped during and after the Second World War. The first victims were fascist Ustasha Croat soldiers captured by Partisan forces in 1942 in the vicinity of Krašić.Although...

.


The Gusle however, is not a part of Croatian mainstream music and rarely receive airtime in the Croatian media. This might be due to the Croatian media producers' pejorative attitude towards Croatian folklore (especially those folkloristic elements who are native to the Dinaric part of Croatia) and their focus on westernized influences. The Gusle has managed to regain some media attention, since several pop musicians such as Marko Perković Thompson, Mate Bulić
Mate Bulic
Mate Bulić is a Bosnian Croat pop/folk singer.Many of his songs are influenced by the region of Herzegovina. Bulić finished his schooling in Čitluk and at Mostar, where he graduated in electrical engineering...

 and Dario Plevnik have started to incorporate Gusle playing into their music. Gusle recordings can be heard on a number of CD compilations published by Croatian ethnologists, which are in most cases distributed locally by the artists themselves.

Serbian Gusle




The Serbian
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 gusle (pluralia tantum) has one or two strings and is usually made of maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 wood. A guslar is an individual capable of reproducing and composing poems about heroes and historical events to the accompaniment of this instrument, usually in the decasyllable
Decasyllable
Decasyllable is a poetic meter of ten syllables used in poetic traditions of syllabic verse...

 meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

. There are records of an instrument named gusle (гоусли) being played at the court of the 13th-century Serbian King Stefan Nemanjić, but it is not certain whether the term was used in its present-day meaning or it denoted some other kind of string instrument. Polish poets of the 17th century mentioned the gusle in their works. In a poem published in 1612, Kasper Miaskowski wrote that "the Serbian gusle and gaida
Gaida
The gaida is a musical instrument, aerophone, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag.The gaida, and its variations, is a traditional musical instrument for entire Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East....

s will overwhelm Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday
Shrove Tuesday is a term used in English-speaking countries, especially in Ireland, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Germany, and parts of the United States for the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of fasting and prayer called Lent.The...

" (Serbskie skrzypki i dudy ostatek zagluszą). In the idyll
Idyll
An idyll or idyl is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus' short pastoral poems, the Idylls....

 named Śpiewacy, published in 1663, Józef Bartłomiej Zimorowic used the phrase "to sing to the Serbian gusle" (przy Serbskich gęślach śpiewać). In some older Serbian books on literature it was stated that a Serbian guslar performed at the court of Władysław II Jagiełło
Jogaila
Jogaila, later 'He is known under a number of names: ; ; . See also: Jogaila : names and titles. was Grand Duke of Lithuania , king consort of Kingdom of Poland , and sole King of Poland . He ruled in Lithuania from 1377, at first with his uncle Kęstutis...

 in 1415, but this is not confirmed in Polish sources.
The gusle has played a significant role in the history of Serbian epic poetry
Serbian epic poetry
Serb epic poetry is a form of epic poetry written by Serbs originating in today's Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Montenegro. The main cycles were composed by unknown Serb authors between the 14th and 19th centuries...

 because of its association with the centuries old patriotic oral legacy. Most of the epics are about the era of the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 occupation and the struggle for the liberation from it. With the efforts of ethnographer Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
Vuk Stefanovic Karadžic
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić was a Serbian philolog and linguist, the major reformer of the Serbian language, and deserves, perhaps, for his collections of songs, fairy tales, and riddles to be called the father of the study of Serbian folklore. He was the author of the first Serbian dictionary...

, many of these epics have been collected and published in books in the first half of the 19th century.

External links




Imota.net Joško Ćaleta: Gusle