What Is Balkan Music? An Overview

The music of Southeastern Europe or Balkan music is a type of music distinct from others in Europe. This is definitely because it was influenced by traditional music of Southeastern European ethnic groups and mutual music influences of these ethnic groups. The music is characterised by complex rhythm.

The music of the Slavic countries of Southeastern Europe is significantly different from the music of Eastern Europe, which includes the Slavic states of the former USSR. The latter was much more influenced by the common eastern Slavic culture, notably by Kievan Rus and more recently the USSR.

If you aren't familiar with Balkan music, then you are missing some very interesting rhythms. Balkan music, especially Serbian and Bulgarian, use a combination of 2/16 and 3/16 beats to form a wide variety of patterns. Because of using 2s and 3s, the final number doesn't tell you what the actual rhythm is. For example, 7/16 can be 2-2-3, or 2-3-2, or 3-2-2.

In addition to the rhythms, Bulgarian women's music is noted for their polyphony, where a single woman is singing two different notes at the same time.

Some examples of Balkan Music:

Neighboring musical influences

Byzantine medieval music

Byzantine (Greek: Βυζαντινή Μουσική), traditional music is associated with the medieval sacred chant of Christian Churches following the Constantinopolitan rite. Its modal system is based on the ancient Greek models. The development of large scale hymnographic forms begins in the fifth century with the rise of the kontakion, a long and elaborate metrical sermon, which finds its acme in the work of St. Romanos the Melodos (sixth century). Heirmoi in syllabic style are gathered in the Heirmologion, a bulky volume which first appeared in the middle of the tenth century and contains over a thousand model troparia arranged into an oktoechos (the eight-mode musical system) and the whole system of Byzantine music which is closely related to the ancient Greek system.

Greek music

Greek folk music includes Demotika, Cretan and Nisiotika, Pontian, Laiko and Rebetiko. Greek music developed around the Balkans as a synthesis of elements of the music of the various areas of the Greek mainland and the Greek islands, with Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical chant, and a reference to music of Crete and Byzantine music. The music of the Aegean Islands, are known for Nisiótika songs; Greek characteristics vary widely. Crete has a well known folk dance tradition; it includes swift dances like pentozalis. Most of the Nisiótika songs are accompanied by Greek musical instruments like: lira, clarinet, guitar and violin. Greek folk dances include Kalamatianos, Syrtos and Sousta.

Ottoman music

Dimitrie Cantemir was a composer of Ottoman music. any musical instruments were introduced to the Balkans during the time of Ottoman control, but many Ottoman instruments were borrowed by the locals.
"Balkan" is a Turkish word which means sharp mountains. As this the influence of Mehter and Turkish rhythms and melodies can be seen in Balkan Music. In the 19th century in imitation of the Turkish military bands which replaced the Mehterhane formations of Janissary Turks beginning in 1828. Apparently, as in Turkey, they dethroned the ancient traditional oboe (zurna, zurla, or mizmar) and double-membraned drum ensembles.

Pre-modern Balkan music

Traditional folk instruments in Bulgarian music include various kinds of bagpipes (Gaida); drums (tapan); tarambuka; bells; daire; clapper; zilmasha; praportsi. Woodwind diple: zurla; kaval; duduk; dvoyanka; ocarina; accordion. String instrument: arfa lyra; Bulgarian tambura, name is Bulgaria България known as tambura; fiddle; mandolin; guitar and gusle.

Traditional Serbian music

The medieval era in Serbia traditional music. During the Nemanjic dynasty, musicians played an important role in the royal court, and were known as sviralnici, glumci and praskavnici. Other rulers known for the musical patronage included Stefan Dušan, Stefan Lazarević, and Đurađ Branković. Medieval musical instruments included horns, trumpets, lutes, psalteries and cymbals.

Balkan Music Per Country:

  • Albania
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Republic of Macedonia
  • Turkey

Balkan Music Per People:

  • Romani
  • Ottoman
  • Oriental
  • Jewish Diaspora / Klezmer
  • Arab Middle East / Arab-American Diaspora