Montenegro’s musical traditions are a combination of folk traditions with influences from all over Europe. The earliest forms of music were religious-based musical traditions. Venetian music and Albanian music pretty much dominated Montenegro during the 15th century.
Montenegro has been highly influenced by the classical music traditions of Western Europe. One of the most prominent composers to come out of Montenegro is Jovan Ivanisevic. From about the 17th century, most serious musicians studied in Prague, and Ivanisevic was no different. He produced many different kinds of works (including most notably, the national anthem); the tragic part is that he produced so much, yet died at the age of 29. I wonder if he lived longer that more people would be more familiar with his works. Operas and librettos were quite popular during the 19th century, which followed the trends in other areas of Europe. Even in the 20thcentury, Montenegrin classical music continued to flourish. The city of Cetinje was a major city for classical music studies, followed by Podgorica, even though music schools opened in many of the major cities across the country.
The main instrument is the gusle, a single-stringed bowl-shaped lyre. It’s held upright between the knees and played with a bow. Vocal music, however, tends to dominate folk music traditions. Many of the lyrics are based on traditional epic poetry.
One of the most common folk dances for Montenegrins is the oro. It’s also danced among Herzegovinian Serbs. The oro is thought to have originated from the Crmnica region. Although it’s a dance, it’s also a game. This circle dance is danced by both men and women; one person starts mocking someone on the other side of the circle through song, trying to get them to come dance in the center of the circle. Usually a young man will enter first, dancing the dance of the eagle and clearly trying to impress the others. Second, a girl will enter, imitating his movements but more gracefully. (Of course.) When they get tired, they give each other a kiss, move back to the circle, and another couple enters.
As far as modern commercial music goes, I was surprised to find quite a few Montenegrin hip-hop artists and groups. One group I came across was the strangely named group Monteniggers. I’m not sure who advised them that name is perfectly cool, but, no. I see where they were trying to go with it, but again, no. Not to mention, that one dude is wearing a Confederate flag bandana. (Sigh.) I listened to the album Allboom; their music is highly influenced by the musical styles of the early 1990s or so.
If you’re into that style, you’d probably also like Rade Rapido’s album Kamo Sjutra. There are a few catchy songs mixed in the album, but otherwise, the style isn’t settling well with me as much. But I can’t quite place my finger on it. It almost sounds like a “you had to be there” kind of band/album.
Rambo Amadeus’ sound is a combination of metal and funk and classical. Like someone took the vocals from Rammstein and put it on top of early Red Hot Chili Peppers. And there is one song that sounds like an avant-garde opera. It’s not quite doing it for me.
I liked the flow and instrumentals of the group Who See. It kind of reminds me a little of Australia’s Bliss N Eso at times or even Croatia’s Elemental at times. It’s got quite a chill feel to it, sometimes almost a reggae beat underneath it. Several of the songs utilize upbeats and some syncopation to keep it interesting.
If I were to pick a favorite Montenegrin artist, Sivilo might be toward the top. I really liked the album Tamna strana srece. His use of strings and piano, pop and electronica influences, and melodic vocal lines underneath his rhymes are what makes this so attractive and quite dramatic. It’s quite chill in places. There’s just so much to love about this album.
One of the most well-known rock bands is Perper. They aren’t quite what I would categorize as rock, though. Well, to me, it’s more of a combination of soft rock and indie rock, and at times they remind me of Crash Test Dummies.
Up next: the food