If you listen to the traditional music of Macedonia, you’ll probably find it similar to its neighbors. They share a lot of history, so it makes sense that their music will have similarities as well. However, there are certain marks of distinction in Macedonian music that sets it apart from the others.
Like other countries with a strong musical background, there are a number of different types of folk songs. The songs are either urban or rural and include epic songs, labor songs, ritual songs, and there are many songs for dances as well. Chalgija is one type of urban music style that is dependent on percussion.
As a music major, I enjoy the complexities of other culture’s music and how it’s constructed. I like to think of it as a look into how a society thinks. If this is true, then the Macedonians are very complex thinkers. In fact, I read that one folk song utilizes a 22/16 time signature (like in the song above). That’s insane! I’m positive they could simplify this down. But, as it stands, they do break it down into two phrases of 11: 2+2+3+2+2 and 3+2+2+2+2. Wouldn’t it have been tons easier to think of this as a fast 5/4 with a triplet here and there? Yes, I know there’s a difference, but that’s what I would end up hearing anyway. I’m going to write a song using 5/4 that mimics this. Just because.
A number of instruments heard in Macedonian music are the same throughout the Balkan region. Traditional music uses the kaval (type of flute), zurla (large double-reed horn), kemane (three-stringed fiddle), harmonica (accordion), tapan (type of cylindrical drum), tambura (long-necked lute), and the shupelka (a type of smaller flute). Folk orchestras incorporate several traditional instruments along with the addition of clarinets and saxophones, synthesizers, and drum machines.
There are several types of dance that are popular in Macedonia; however, only a few are widely known. Folk dance is known as Oro, and one type of oro is called kopachka. This particular dance originates from a village in the region of Pijanec. It’s primarily performed by men; they form a half circle and dance while holding their belts with their left hand over their right. It’s generally a fast, energetic dance with a lot of jumps. The village introduced the dance to Tanec, a national group who performs folklore dances. The name of the dance was changed to kopachka, and the dance became so popular that the town changed its name to reflect the dance. At least it’s better than the city of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Classical music is also very important in Macedonia. Known for their choral traditions, two of their most well-known composers are Todor Skalovski and Trajko Prokopiev. The Mokranjac School of Music was built in 1934, and the period after WWII saw immense growth in support for classical music. Operas and ballets written by Macedonian composers began to debut on stages across the country during the post-war time.
When it comes to pop music, Macedonian musicians pretty much span the gamut. I came across several artists who sang in a modern traditional style and sometimes mixed it with different genres. Karolina Goceva’s music mixed elements of jazz into some of her music. Other artists such as Kaliopi, Rebeka, Tose Proeski, and Elena Risteska fell strongly in the pop category. Most pop music was sung in Macedonian but some of it was sung in English as well.
Rock does very well in Macedonia. And more specifically: punk rock, one of my favorite genres. And if you really want to get specific, I’m a super huge fan of ska, and to my fortune, Macedonia has a ska band called SuperHiks (which would be a strange name in the US, tongue in cheek to say the least). They’re pretty good; I like them. And apparently they’ve been around for more than 20 years. Another punk band I came across is Noviot Pochetok, which is what I call “skateboard” punk. Their style kind of reminds me NOFX to a degree. I could totally listen to them in the car with the windows down.
Indie rock bands are also represented here as well. Bernays Propaganda has a female lead singer and kind of leans toward a post-modern sound. Xaxaxa is another band I’d put in this category. I think they sound like The Smiths or The Cure at times, but with a punk background.
Of course, there are metal bands. One I found was called Chromatic Point. I think they mix in elements of folk and classical, which is probably why I like it.
Hip-hop seems to be well-represented in Macedonia as well. One artist I found (who actually seems more like R&B and dance) is Elvir Mekic. My daughter was dancing to his music last night. I do have to admit, it’s pretty catchy. The song above also feature rapper Vrcek. I also came across an Australian rap group called Curse ov Dialect. They have a Macedonian member who calls himself Volk Makedonski. They mix ethnic and avant guard music with hip-hop. I kind of like it; I like when people aren’t afraid to try something different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t; but in this case, it seems to be working.
I also found this jazz album called Bottling Jazzy that features vibraphonist Zoran Madzirov. I actually really like it. So, after YouTubing videos for Zoran, he is actually using bottles in these songs. I think this album would make for some great acid jazz. This is great stuff.
Up next: the food