Various Artists

Music of the Balkan Muslims

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This is a collection of field recordings from Bosnia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria compiled by one of Europe's leading musicologists, Deben Bhattacharya. This collection spans the years 1954 to 1986 and delves quite deeply into the various ceremonial, social, and ritual musics of all three countries and their various Islamic traditions. Many of the musics here reflect the conquering Turkish empire's influence in converting the Roman Catholics of former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Bosnia to Islam, meaning that some of the songs found here are no less than 700 years old. They reflect the wide colors and harmonic palettes of the integration of various cultures under the deep influence of the Islam of Turkish variety: A Serbian Muslim will sing his words and play his melodies in his native language and musical style, but will nonetheless play these songs and dances on Turkish instruments. Depending on the tradition and region, there are a variety of circular dances and folk songs, as well as instrumental "reels." The saz, a Turkish stringed instrument, is the predominant one here, but there are also cimbaloms, and other Eastern dulcimers, hammered and strummed, and various percussion instruments used to varying degrees, though it must be said that in all of the traditions, the strummed dulcimers and sazs are played as rhythm instruments, as well as lead instruments, lending the impression of an entire army of strings descending upon the listener with a music that is as old and contentious as the regions themselves.

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