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The only promoters of the “Bugarenje”

© Glas Istre
Thursday, 11 January 2005

"Bugarenje" is an archaic singing style that is performed by groups of singers, characteristic for Cicaria, which always excites interest and hope for preservation of this interesting folkloric expression. It is practiced by singers from Lanisce as the original representatives of the Cicarija singing style.

LANISCE – Ciceria is a mountainous area in northern Istria and the location of a unique singing style called "bugarenje", "kanat", "rozganje" or singing “na tanko I debelo”. Unique to the world, at one time this type of singing was prevalent all over the Cicarija area. In the sixties, the older singers from Podgace, Prapoc and Brest would consistently participate at Istrian folk song festivals as well as at the international folklore festival in Zagreb. But this type of singing is slowly dying out, and there are very few people left who know how to sing this style of music and that are still performing it publicly.

In 1976, to preserve this musical heritage, music teacher Mladenka Cotic Sverko assembled a group of students from Lanisce: Anita Grbac, Branka Grbac, Dijana Sverko, Irena Medica, Mirijana Vratovic and Nedeljka Mikac. She sent them to Angela Poropat in Lanisce to learn how to sing this type of a capello [choral] music. During that time, Angela, together with Ana Perko from Lanisce and Zora Sverko from Podgace, were singing it in public.

"If it weren’t for the insistence of Mladenka Cotic Sverko to teach us this type of song back then, there would be nobody around to do it now. Our first performance was in the summer of 1977 at the “Raspjevanoj Buzestini” festival. We were a true attraction because nobody so young had ever before performed this type of singing in public. Our first song was “Gora se s gorom razgovara” (Mountain is talking to mountain) and “Cvijece moje” (Flowers of mine)," Irena Sverko reminisces of their first singing experiences.

The term “bugarenje”, said Irena, was first introduced into official music terminology by Ivan Matetic Ronjgov and Slavko Zlatic. The Cici would never call their singing “bugarenje” but they would say that they would “zakantat” or “zarozgat”. This type of singing is done as a duet performing within a group. The basic singing is started by one singer, and then followed by other singers who sing the upper and lower sections. The ending is specific in that the lower section drops off. This musical expression is basically accompanied with lyrical-epical text in stokavian or cakavian.

It is not easy to sing this way said Irena, because you have to reach a tonality which is not easy. Members of the Female Vocal Ensemble that gathered in the school benches have sung “bugarenje” to  represent the Cicarija region in the international children's festival in Sibenik and in the international folklore parade in Zagreb. For the Zagreb parade, they needed a folk wardrobe which was provided by the well-known ethnologist Jelka Radus Ribric, who is himself originally from Cicarija. The group had at the time performed on the radio program “Cetvrtkov uskilcnik” (Thursday’s exclamation mark), which was conducted by Jadranka Kosor. The singing Cicarijans graduated and started high-school and in 1978 they stopped performing. Renato Pernic was responsible for reactivating the group. In 1993, he gathered these singers and established a female vocal ensemble called “Lanisce”. They learned to sing some new songs, for example “Djevojka je rublje prala” (The girl was washing cloths), “Sunce sije zora rudi” (The Sun is shining and down is downing).

Unfortunately, Angela Poropat and Ana Penko, who were the last of the older singers that had performed regularly in public, died soon afterwards. With Angela's death also died the only teacher of this type of vocal interpretation. With the help of Radio Pula and especially Renato Pernic, the group used recorded material to learn new songs, music that Pernic had found in their archives, including such songs as “Na vrh gore” (At the top of the mountain), “Sto se zvizdo” (What a star you are) and “Plovi mi plovi barcica” (Sail, sail my boat).

The female vocal ensemble “Lanisce” performs regularly at regional and central festivals of folk music and dances of Istria. Today the ensemble consists of Irena Sverko, Anita Cesar, Miriana Vratovic and Branka Grbac Sverko. At these festivals they represent Cicarija. The last several years, Jisp Zmak and Anto Sverko representated the male singing group.

Bugarenje (kanat) is unfortunately slowly dying out. There are some older ladies in Cicarija that sometime sing some of these songs to comfort their souls. The only villages in Cicarija where people sing somewhat, said Irena, are Podgace and Lanisce. The members of the female vocal ensemble “Lanisce” through their research and practice are the true protectors of this folk tradition and musical heritage as well as the promoters of this type of singing (kanat).


Translation by Pino Golja


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