This book includes a plain text version that is designed for high accessibility. To use this version please follow this link.
39 f

musician Mikuláš Gigac, has been collecting animal bells from Slovakia and the world for 50 years and has turned the ground- floor rooms of his home into an amazing private museum displaying thousands of them and some Šumiac costumes; he also has a collection of local songs, and when we visited was making the local spaghetti-like korbácik string cheese.)

Dajana’s family, and their Mons Regius organisation, are central to the festival and much else, Dajana running the musical part, sister Dominika the visual art aspects and eldest sister Denisa the photographic side from which the festival sprang. Their moth- er Anna runs the cosy Margarétkovo café and health food shop on the square, and their father Ján energetically backs them all up. Grandmother Mária, seeing that the tra- ditions she lived and loved were dwindling, founded many years ago the folklore group which still has a strong role in village life. Mária, Dajana and Dominika and aunt Anna Margarétka also sing together as the quar- tet Margetky.

Šumenie festival happens on Friday and

Saturday. During the day there are art and photographic exhibitions, workshops and discussions, and on the Saturday afternoon there’s the dance-song-procession called Kacierina. Formerly in the spring when the women went to the fields, in the last couple of years it’s been revived as part of the festi- val: a procession of women, many in tradi- tional costume, process up the street singing, joining hands in pairs to make arch- es through which those at the back run so that the front of the procession is constantly renewed. When they reach the square they dance in circles, singing. Šumiac is noted for the strength and volume of its singing; both male and female, but at this year’s festival mainly female.

In the evenings there are concerts on the outdoor stage. The Friday concert opened with young singer-songwriter and keyboardist Katka and her band; she was followed by the experimental music project, featuring singers Dajana and Dominika Margetová, Patrícia Bošelová, and very fine male singer Štefan Štec from Košice, with Matej Haász laptop-live-sampling their voic- es, whistles and bells into a soundscape, with video projections. Polish duo the Magic Carpathians and I were invited to join in. Finally Slovak African drums and dance group Bakuruba warmed up the late- evening mountain chill, their set developing into an all-comers dance-jam.

On Saturday the Warsaw Village Band made it over the Tatras for, surprisingly, their first ever performance in Poland’s

Muzicka at EtnoKrakow Margetky (L to r: Maria, Anna Margaretka, Dominika, Dajana)

southern neighbour Slovakia. Before them came the very fine singing of Margetky, plus the trio of Barbara, Anicka and Saška Matáková from Cadca, north-west of Šumi- ac. They were joined by dancers Peter Hrabovský and Martina Takácsová and accompanied by the fiddles, viola, cimbalom and bass of fiddler and singer Michal Pagác’s band from Dubnica.

remarkable custom in the region in which a person who wants to sing a particular song will go up to the band and, giving voice with great gusto and encouraging gestures, demand it slows down and follows in accompaniment; the rest of the assembled company join in, before the band swings back into a faster dance tune. The singing, arms round shoulders, and swirling dancing went on far into the night.


Next morning the band came to the Margeta family house for a late breakfast, and I asked them whether this had been a special gig for them, or just a normal night’s work. It seemed that, though it was a good one, they play at similar village dances, and for weddings. Bands are still very much in demand because, unlike in most parts of pre- sent-day Europe, many Slovak villages have celebrations or little festivals (and there’s the big central Slovak folklore festival at Detva,

t the after-party in the commu- nity hall the Pagác band played on for dancing, and for the indefatigable unison and har- mony singing. There’s a

in fujara heartland to the south of Šumiac), and many weddings are still traditional-style at least in part, and traditional costume in its varied regional styles is even becoming more fashionable, for women at least.

Dajana describes one of these present- day weddings. “The procession meets in front of the groom’s house, and the musi- cians start playing, and then they follow the procession towards the bride’s family’s house, and then to church where they play outside. Then everyone goes to eat, and there’s dancing and all that. Until midnight the bride wears the traditional hairband, but after midnight she gives it to her hus- band, and puts on the traditional embroi- dered hat, and becomes the wife.”

David Sladek, who is acting as my excel- lent interpreter when necessary, tells me, “The way of singing in Šumiac – the hard voice – that’s the traditional way, but across Slovakia most of the bands try to style themselves into more modern ways. But there are bands who follow and study tradi- tional ways of playing.”

One such is the Bratislava fiddles and vocal band Muzicka, formed 30 years ago by city musicians exploring and taking up the music of the villages. They weren’t in Šumi- ac, although they’ve played there in the past, but I’d seen and been impressed by them, augmented by a pair of the dancers they often work with, in July at EtnoKraków in Poland, and had a brief chat with prime mover Tomás Brunovsky.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84