Bećarac singing and playing from Eastern Croatia
Bećarac is a popular genre of music in eastern Croatia deeply rooted in the cultures of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem. Communication among its performers is essential: lead singers interchange vocal lines, striving to out-sing one another while creating, emulating and combining decasyllabic verses and shaping the melody – all the while accompanied by a group of singers and tambura bands. The music conveys community values, but also enables singers to express thoughts and feelings that might be inappropriate if uttered directly or in other contexts. Each lead singer shapes his or her performance according to the context, with the performance lasting as long as the creativity and energy of the singers permit. Lead singers must possess both a powerful voice and a wide repertoire of old and new couplets, and be apt, quick and clever in choosing and combining them. Nowadays, men and women are almost equally represented among tradition bearers. The Bećarac is spread widely throughout eastern Croatian communities and remains part of living practice – whether in completely informal situations of music-making or in contemporary festive events and celebrations. Many sub-types of Bećarac also exist, in addition to particularities introduced by lead singers. Bećarac is therefore an extraordinarily vivid, dynamic genre that is recreated in each performance.
Ceremonial Keşkek tradition
Keşkek is a traditional Turkish ceremonial dish prepared for wedding ceremonies, circumcisions and religious holidays. Women and men work together to cook wheat and meat called ‘Keşkek’ in huge cauldrons, then serve it to the guests. The wheat is washed with prayers the preceding day, and then carried to a large stone mortar, to the accompaniment of music from the davul drum and zurna double-reed pipe. At the mortar it is hulled by two to four persons using gavels in a fixed rhythm. Cooking is usually carried out outdoors: hulled wheat, chunks of meat on the bone, onions, spices, water and oil are added to the cauldron and cooked all night. Towards noon, the strongest of the village youth are called to beat the Keşkek with wooden mallets, while the crowd cheers and zurna players perform musical pieces, announcing the thickening of the stew with a specific melody. Numerous expressions associated with the dish – used during the selection of wheat, the blessings, praying and carrying the wheat, as well as preparing and cooking it – have become common expressions in daily life. In addition, the tradition encompasses entertainment, plays and musical performances. Neighbouring towns and villages are invited to feast collectively in the ceremony premises. The cooking tradition is safeguarded and transmitted by master cooks to apprentices.