Depending on which part of the country you're visiting, Croatia may appear as barren and mountainous with dramatic views of the Adriatic, fertile with rolling hills and deep rivers, or dense with gnarled forests. Croatia's kaleidoscopic geography -- which only covers an area about half the size of Louisiana -- is also reflected in the country's cultural heritage. On Songs and Dances from Croatia (Across the Drava River), the Zagreb Folk Dance Ensemble presents the culture's varied musical heritage through a series of 19 traditional songs. Named after Croatia's capital city, the Zagreb Folk Dance Ensemble has since its inception in May of 1945 strived to conserve Croatia's traditional musical and dance-oriented customs. Discordant works that are squeezed out of the bowels of misnices, gajdes, and dudes (different bagpipes); gleeful upbeat numbers that feature such stringed instruments as the tambura or tamburica (a bowl lyre); harmonically aberrant vocal ensembles from the island of Krk -- all are given space on this disc. The booklet that accompanies the CD displays photographs of the ensemble in action and provides much information in English, Spanish, and German. Considerable attention in the booklet is given to Croatia's musical instruments and the ensemble's many accomplishments. The thought of Croatia may bring up visions of the recent string of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia -- but once Songs and Dances from Croatia (Across the Drava River) is heard, images of conflict should give way to the omnipotence of song and dance.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier