Without a doubt, music is an inevitable part of any culture. It is a way to express the inner world of a person as well as the idea of a whole nation. Some of the folk songs already became memes in the modern world. For example, it is easy to recognize Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese or Mexican songs just after several first notes. However, what about Slovenia?
Definitely, Slovenians like singing. As part of Slavic culture, it has an enormous number of folk and national melodies with their own style and rhythmic structures. To mention about modern music, the folk heritage was transformed into unique pop pieces.
Musical diversity is tremendous, relating to the small territory of such a country like Slovenia. Thus, in this article, we will reveal Slovenian music culture starting from its folk roots until nowadays.
A Small Historical Briefing
Slovenia can be defined as a “historical door” between Slavic nations and the Western world. Logically, this fact influenced ethnic music as well. From first glance, it seems that Slovenian just took the most popular music from neighboring countries and just mixed it, but it’s not true. In fact, it created its own style based on polka and waltz.
In short, Slovenian music comes from the 5th century, when Christianity spread in territories of modern Slovenia. Therefore, liturgical hymns became the first musical representatives of the national soul.
In medieval times, the primary musical influence was Italy. For example, Antonio Tarsia, an Italian composer, shared with Slovenians the image of so-called sacred music. His most famous operas were performed on stages all around Slovenia in the 1600s.
From the 1700s, a new influencer came from the North. Johann Berthold von Höffer, a nobleman and amateur composer from Ljubljana, founded one of the first philharmonics and German theatre companies arrived to perform of those stages. They became really popular in the territories of modern Slovenia.
The strengthening of distinct national Slovenian music took place in the 19th century. While the German minority still continued to push for a stronger Germanic identity, such composers as Emil Adamič, Fran Gerbič, Alojz Geržinič, Benjamin Ipavec, Davorin Jenko, Anton Lajovic, Kamilo Mašek, Josip Pavčič, Zorko Prelovec and Lucijan Marija Škerjanc created modern Slovenian classical music sound based on romanticism. In the early 20th century, it was replaced by impressionism, that was spreading across Slovenia by such composers as Marij Kogoj and Slavko Osterc.
The point of cultural identification became the creation of the national anthem “Zdravljica”, composed in 1905 by Stanko Premrl. To mention, the lyrics was written seven decades before, in 1844, by France Prešeren. However, as the hymn is a formal representation of national identity, the informal one, but even more influential, was polkas composed by Slavko Avsenik.
The most famous one is “Na Golici”, that became the second national hymn. Moreover, it was declared as the most played an instrumental piece of music in the world over the last century by the German royalty collection agency GEMA in 2003. The secret of such is the fact that it is not just Slavko’s song; it is the song of family, culture and tradition.
Avseniki is an ensemble created by two brothers: Slavko and Vilko. They brought their unique personalities as well as strong family links in their music. This kaleidoscope of human emotions connected to national traditions passed from generation to generation was touching the hearts of the whole Slovenian population. Furthermore, not only them, because Avseniki were recognized as the most performed and the best-sold authors of popular folk music in Europe. This fact meant that they found not only the notes of Slavic identity but uniting melodies of the whole European nation.
Other famous Slovenian folk performers were Antona Birtica, Joze Kovac, Lojze Slak, Janez Dovc and Jararaja. The main instrument and most recognizable instrument of Slavko Avsenik was accordion, but Slovenian folk music is usually played with a variety of instruments. They are flutes, clarinets, harmonicas, fiddles, different types of brass. Some other instruments came from such neighboring as Hungary and Balkan countries; they are tamburica, drone zither and violin zither, hammered dulcimer. Therefore, they are used mostly in music of the Eastern and Southern regions of the country.
Of course, folk music is usually followed by folk dances. It is an inevitable part of traditions. The most famous Slovenian dances are kolo, lender, štajeriš, mafrine and šaltin. The one that should be emphasized is kolo, because it’s definitely Slovenian, not borrowed from neighbors. Usually, it is performed in groups in a special way. The meaning of its name is “a circle” named by the circle formed by dancers. Today, those dances are mostly performed in festivals and touristic events in order to show national identity, using traditional clothing and playing appropriate songs.
After the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke in the 1990s, Slovenian folk music got a possibility of a fresh breathe. From that time, folk mixed with a variety of genres and brought such unpredictable experimental projects like Magnifico or Terrafolk. The trends of modern-day are not to imitate the West but to borrow slightly, bringing their own identity to the Western culture, not vice versa.
The Era of Modern Music
Nowadays musical situation dictates some trends in the world’s music. For example, using English, mixing different and even opposite styles and so on. On the one hand, this is a way to unite listeners, a try to touch the biggest amount of human hearts. On the other hand, this is the possibility to show national identity to the pattern of worldwide music, to promote ideas close to your mentality and explain them to others.
Slovenian contemporary music is not an exception. It has a definitive part of worldwide-known songs. This year is the 40th anniversary of such a band called Laibach. Despite the fact that they are totally controversial, they became the icon. The band used Nazi images and images of Tito’s regime. The band was the first Western band to perform in North Korea. Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian philosopher, defined them as a highly ironical band, and their music style was recognized as Soviet postmodernism.
Further, let’s talk about less controversial but more melodic bands and singers. The modern Slovenian music stage is full of new and interesting faces, so let’s reveal some of them. The first one, Koala Voice, is a music band formed in 2010 but released their debut album in 2015. The style can be described as indie music with a strong influence of rock bands of the 70s. They are actively touring across Europe. To continue bands with influences from old rock, let’s notice “persons from porlock”. Their name is intentionally written with no capital letters. They have a distinctive alternative sound influenced by the psychedelic rock of the 70s, and garage rock of the 90s. The band is actively performing in Slovenia.
To mention some electronic music, the band “Matter” is one of the best examples as well as Leni Kravac. The first group is mainly electronic, whereas the second one mixes elements of drum’n’bass, funk, jazz, hip-hop, and Balkan melodies. They played concerts even on the streets of Ljubljana, Belgrade, and Zagreb, surprising fans of their unexpectable appearances.
As we mentioned before, folk heritage played a great role in modern Slovenian music. The band called “Širom” is the most obvious example of this statement. They describe themselves as an acoustic folk drone avant-garde experimental band. Pretty complicated definition, but their music explains it easily. If to try to say shortly, it is folk-ish meditation. No more words.
Jardier is one of the highly praised Slovenian music pioneers. As well as the previous one, they were influenced by folk melodies, but they also took a dynamic from rock, blues and pop. Their debut album blew the mind of Slovenian critics in 2015. Now, they are definitely one of the top bands on the Slovenian music field.
Of course, it is not the end of the list. There are tons of decent and precious Slovenian artists and bands. Among them: Elda Viler, Vlado Kreslin, Severa Gjurin, Hazard, Lojze Slak, Siddharta, Niet, Murat & Jose, Klara Jazbec, Easy, Ditka, Nina Pušlar, Dan D and a lot of others.
Answering the Main Question
Once again. Do Slovenians like singing? The answer will be, “Yes, a lot!” Not only singing but playing musical instruments and dancing as well. Starting from the very beginning of our era, Slovenians started to sing religious songs; then they tried to borrow some elements from Italian and German cultures. However, only at the beginning of the previous century, they recognized their hidden potential in folk songs and showed it to the entire modern world.
The folk heritage became the precious hidden gem that identified Slovenian culture among other European nations. The songs of Slavko Avsenik remained in the hearts of every citizen bringing those motives through generation. Thereby, there were created such modern bands as Magnifico or Širom, that continued the tradition of national music in its new reincarnations still remaining national identity.
If you ever have the possibility to listen to any of mentioned above bands or artists, use this possibility immediately. It’s worth it!