Balkan Fascination: Creating an Alternative Music Culture in America

ISBN : 9780190269425

Mirjana Lausevic
312 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Nov 2015
American Musicspheres Series
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Divi Zheni identifies itself as a Bulgarian women's chorus and band, but it is located in Boston and none of its members come from Bulgaria. Zlatne Uste is one of the most popular purveyors of Balkan music in America, yet the name of the band is grammatically incorrect. The members of Sviraci hail from western Massachusetts, upstate New York, and southern Vermont, but play tamburica music on traditional instruments. Curiously, thousands of Americans not only participate in traditional music and dance from the Balkans, but in fact structure their social practices around it without having any other ties to the region. In Balkan Fascination, ethnomusicologist Mirjana Lausevic, a native of the Balkans, investigates this remarkable phenomenon to explore why so many Americans actively participate in specific Balkan cultural practices to which they have no familial or ethnic connection. Going beyond traditional interpretations, she challenges the notion that participation in Balkan culture in North America is merely a specialized offshoot of the 1960s American folk music scene. Instead, her exploration of the relationship between the stark sounds and lively dances of the Balkan region and the Americans who love them reveals that Balkan dance and music has much deeper roots in America's ideas about itself, its place in the world, and the place of the world's cultures in the American melting pot. Examining sources that span more than a century and come from both sides of the Atlantic, Lausevic shows that an affinity group's debt to historical movements and ideas, though largely unknown to its members, is vital in understanding how and why people make particular music and dance choices that substantially change their lives.


Part I: Ethnography of the Balkan Music and Dance Scene
Chapter 1: The "Balkanites"
Chapter 2: Why Balkan?
Part II: Folk Dancing and Turn of the Century America
Chapter 3: Folk Dancing and the Settlement Movement
Chapter 4: Folk Dancing and the Physical Education and Recreation Movements
Part III: International Folk Dancing Between the 1930s and 1950s
Chapter 5: Dance and Be Merry
Chapter 6: Emergence of the New Folk Dance Leaders: Vytautas Beliajus, Song Chang, Michael Herman
Chapter 7: Folk Dance as a National Trend
Part IV: 1950s and Beyond
Chapter 8: International Folk Dance and the "Balkan Craze"
Chapter 9: The Rise of Balkan Scene
Appendix: Sample Questionnaire
Key to Selections on Companion Website: Video and Audio

About the author: 

Mirjana Lausevic (1966-2007) was Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She came to the United States from her native Sarajevo in 1991, where she was a musician, ethnomusicologist, and music commentator on Bosnian radio and television.

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