Music as Medicine: Sevdalinka Songs Help Bosnian Immigrants and Refugees Remember and Heal
By Jelena Kopanja, FI2W contributor – Second of two installments.
The name of Bosnia and Herzegovina –a small, heart-shaped country in the Balkans– is rarely associated with love.
The country made headlines in the mid ’90s as a place where ethnic hatred resulted in the death of 100,000 of its people and the exodus of many more. In addition to the photo albums and coffee grinders refugees packed in their suitcases as they fled, they also brought with them parts of their culture including sevdalinka, a traditional Bosnian song of love and longing for all that was left behind.
Now as Bosnian communities strengthen their roots in the United States, England and elsewhere, younger generations are growing up having little contact with their parents’ homeland. For these children, sevdalinka is perhaps a way to maintain a link. Mary Sherhart, director of Sevdah North America –a cultural organization dedicated to the study and preservation of this music– has seen the powerful connections sevdalinka can make.
“The little girls especially are enamored with it,” she said. “When those kids go home and hang out with their parents –in particular with their grandparents– the grandparents start singing, it gets them thinking about their youth. It is so healthy for these elders who feel particularly traumatized and isolated, as they often do not speak English.”
Listen to “Tamburalo Momce u Tamburu” (Youth was playing tamburitza) by Mary Sherhart, John Morovich and Balkan Cabaret:
From the CD “Somewhere Far Away” (2006)