Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle

Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, 2017

Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle – a simple string instrument – is an ancient art of performing primarily heroic epics practised for centuries as a form of historical memory and an expression of cultural identity. Performances involve a complex form of interaction between the audience and performer and are based on the skills and creativity of soloist artists (guslars): the guslars’ ability to dramatize poetic content, body language and charisma are key for successful performances. The repertoire includes songs predominantly about mythical and historical heroes, events from the legendary past, ancient or recent history and, less commonly, ballads and humorous songs. Stage performances take place locally, at festivals, and as part of commemoration practices. Covering a wide range of topics, the songs reflect the value system of the community and their interactive character fosters community feeling. Most modern guslars acquire the basic singing and playing skills from more experienced players in their family, local community or a guslar association, but the skills are also transmitted in public music schools. Local organizations are assembled around the Union of Guslars of Serbia, whose efforts have resulted in the establishment of the Festival of Young Guslars and the Assembly of the Young Guslars of Serbia.

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