Croatian Becarac Singing Added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Becarac singing and playing from Eastern Croatia (Slavonski becarac) was inscribed this month on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Becarac is a popular genre of music in eastern Croatia deeply rooted in the cultures of Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

According to UNESCO, “Communication among its performers is essential: lead singers interchange vocal lines, striving to out-sing one another while creating, emulating and combining decasyllabic verses and shaping the melody – all the while accompanied by a group of singers and tambura bands.

The music conveys community values, but also enables singers to express thoughts and feelings that might be inappropriate if uttered directly or in other contexts. Each lead singer shapes his or her performance according to the context, with the performance lasting as long as the creativity and energy of the singers permit. Lead singers must possess both a powerful voice and a wide repertoire of old and new couplets, and be apt, quick and clever in choosing and combining them.

Nowadays, men and women are almost equally represented among tradition bearers. The Becarac is spread widely throughout eastern Croatian communities and remains part of living practice – whether in completely informal situations of music-making or in contemporary festive events and celebrations.

Many sub-types of Becarac also exist, in addition to particularities introduced by lead singers. Becarac is therefore an extraordinarily vivid, dynamic genre that is recreated in each performance.”

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