Music from Montenegro
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cd cover Various Artists
Music from Montenegro
Caprice Records (www.capricerecords.se)

Montenegro has always been one of those hotly contested crossroads countries, lying as it does in the path between Europe and Asia. Throughout history, aggressors from the ancient Romans through the Soviets have beaten a path through the little country, leaving cultural and musical footprints in their wake. On this collection, traces of Montenegro’s history come through in shepherd songs, wedding songs, epic ballads, and flute, fiddle, and tamburitza music. The producers have done a creditable job of finding a healthy sampling of genres, ranging from raw, unfiltered folk song to smooth, commercial men’s choirs. With a whopping twenty-eight tracks, the collection is a rich resource of sound.

Listen!
The Turkish influence is in evidence in "A la turca," an instrumental by the Muslim ensemble Plav. Repetitive, highly ornamented figures are played on tambura, accordion, and tarabuka. Ljubo Majic and Stojan Raicevic sing a "song dialogue," an ancient harvest song in which two singers trade lines singing in a style called iz glasa "directly from the throat." It’s a loud, declamatory technique designed to be heard while working in the fields. The contrast between this song and the one that follows is stark, as Klapa Ulcinj and his tamburitza orchestra sing a richly harmonized song that reflects an Albanian influence. "Cobanine, lijepa evojko," sung by popular singer Šjukrija Serhatlic, accompanied by the Ensemble Podgorica, has a lovely elegiac nobility. Listening to Darinka Kalucerovic’s heart-shredding lament for her dead brother "’Ocu l’malo s tobom zborit’, brate, rode" almost feels like eavesdropping, it’s so intimately mournful. There are also some fine samplings of folk instruments such as the diple (goatskin bagpipes), svirale (double flute), gusle (fiddle), and kaval (Albanian shepherd’s flute)

It’s unfortunate that the liner notes are not up to the quality of the music. The awkwardly translated booklet is mildly informative, reading more like a tourist brochure than an ethnomusicological treatise. (Note the sometimes puzzling placement of exclamation points!) The brief descriptions of individual tracks are more successful, despite a few misspellings. Still, this shouldn’t prevent you from seeking out this valuable collection. - Peggy Latkovich - Peggy Latkovich

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