by Nelly Huang
Croatia, a land of more than a thousand islands splattered off the beautiful Adriatic Sea coastline in the Balkans of Eastern Europe, is chock-full of intriguing history, Mediterranean cuisine and Slavic cultural heritage. And on a recent visit to its Dalmatian coast, I decided to delve deeper into its less explored side of the country, and so I ditched the crowds on the beach, left the tourist trail behind me, and headed deep into the world of music.
Journey into Dalmatian Folk Music
Stretching from the island of Rab to the Bay of Kotor, Dalmatia occupies the eastern coast of the Adriatic. Folk music in this region is strongly influenced by the Mediterranean and often resembles the music in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. It is usually characterized by slow, free rhythm and soothing beats that remind us of the ocean. Dalmatian folk music has inspired many new forms of music and numerous modern artists have incorporated elements of it into their pop songs.
One good example is Oliver Dragojević, an extremely popular singer in Croatia, whose music is strongly influenced by Dalmatian folklore. He first emerged into the music scene in the 1970s during the Split Festival, an annual music event that is still held in Croatia today. He then released many popular hits that featured elements of folk, including ‘Galeb I ja’, a popular Dalmatian anthem. But today, there is much less presence of domestic folk music in Dalmatia due to globalization.
Dalmatia's Folk Music Festival
With the aim of conserving traditions, a special annual festival of Dalmatian singing is held in Omiš each year. Now a cultural institution of importance, with Croats from all over the country gather from the end of May till the end of July at the Festival of the Dalmatian Klapas (klapa music is a kind of a capella singing dating back to the liturgical church singing of the mid-19th century, its main elements are harmony and melody more than rhythm. Located just 16 miles from Split, Croatia’s second largest city, the Dalmatian Riviera in and around Omiš is stunning, especially at night, stretching for miles along pebbled beaches, bays and steep cliffs. If you get the chance to travel to Croatia during this time of the year, be sure to pay homage to the folk music festival in Omiš.