Does Sevdalinka have important place in lifes of Sarajevo people

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I as a citizen of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina am trying to answer question Does Sevdalinka, as a traditional music in Bosnia and Herzegovina, still have important place in life's of people from Sarajevo, as a part of their cultural identity ? And is it still one of the puzzles which make mosaic of multiculturalism? Among the many things to study about this topic , I specifically wanted to find out how much significance Sevdalinka places on our culture in nowadays, is it still present in our culture and in life's of younger population. In order to do research about Sevdalinka I first have to know what Sevdalinka is. "Sevdalinka is an urban Bosnian love song, with the word "Bosnian" defining the geographical origin of Sevdalinka, the word "urban" depicting its urban nature, and the word "love" denoting its content related theme." (Omer Pobrić, Musician). Meaning of word Sevdah comes from Turkish language and it means loving someone but there is also karasevda which means black love actually, love with no happy ending. But in case of Sevdalinka in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is about impossible, not reciprocatedlove with pain and suffering of one who loves. It belongs to expressive culture first to music and that related with other segments of culture as clothing, architecture, houses, and gardens. As music is art it has its aesthetics which are very important to our culture. Robert Borofsky noted that "Anthropologists often draw on this tradition to emphasize a people` s shared beliefs and behaviours that distinguish them from other and, at the same time, offer them sense of sheared meaning."

Sevadlinka is the holder of record singed principles of cultural identity, traditions, and morals Professor Hartshorne describes identity which is present in this case in Sevdalinka.

"What then is personal identity? It is the persistence of certain defining characteristics in a very complex orderly society endowed with a pre-eminent linear society or "soul"

Sevdalinka is product of syncretism in this region which was under the rule of many empires, nations cultures as Bosnians (Slavs and Illyrians) and Turks mainly, but also Armenians, Roma, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Sephardic Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians .When it comes to empires and governing systems their is long time line which includes Pre-Slavic Period, Medieval Bosnia, Ottoman era, Austro-Hungarian era, Communism (Yugoslavia) and finally today's Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each empire each nation brought part of it s tradition, melodies to Sevdalinka not also tradition but also new instruments and words, and themes are being set. Sevdalinka is live book of history which is transmitted from generation to generation; poetic imagery paints beautiful scenes of nature, town streets, traditional homes and gardens. All those new components which affected it will be explained in data analyses.

Objectives will be achieved by doing questionnaires in local area in schools, offices, and internet. Interviews are going to be done with people who are specified in this branch of music and participant observations on citizens who live in Sarajevo will be done. After collection of all necessary data I will be able to analyse and give conclusion, answer to my guiding question by ethnographic technique, emic approach.

Investigation: Methodology and Problems

In order to address the research issue, three types of field work methods were utilized. By both research methods quantitative and qualitative data was collected. While referring to quantitative data I refer to questionnaires which have been done in local area, Sarajevo. It was done in two high schools and working places and by emails. While saying two high schools as places were questionnaire were done but actually they were done in third and fourth grades. I used this method because it is easier to analyse, analysis of lot of data and can be done in larger area then it is done with interviews. Also advantage of questionnaires is the anonymity of participants which have been achieved by guidance that this questionnaire is confidential and purpose of it and by this I full filled my obligation towards ethic example Please answer the following questionnaire all information's received are confidential and are going to be used just for the this investigation. Second advantage of questionnaire is objectivity which is very important for relevance of research. While I was doing my fieldwork I was aware that I was not doing harm to people who participated in fieldwork and having respect towards them by protecting their privacy by anonymity unless participant would have given me explicit permission to the contrary which was in case of doing one of interviews. This field work did not involve children so written consent of parents was not needed. Also while I was preparing meeting for interview with participant which is specified for this art not usage of this data for any purpose except for this anthropological research was mentioned as well as my wishes to report my research results. Also Sarajevo is city wealthy with museums but this particular museum of Sevdalinka was very important for my investigation and I think that my work in future would help them to understand society in Sarajevo and their needs for music in order to fulfil them. My questionnaire was constructed from 9 questions composed from multiple choices and text boxes were participant could write more about question. I have chosen to have 9 questions because I think that long surveys are not relevant and that participant to those questionnaires only for sake of doing. Participant's concentration becomes lower after 2 or 5 minutes because they have their obligations and my obligation was to get as more information's as I could for less time. Questions were clearly stated so participants do not have to think a lot to understand question. Even after concerning all of those I had problems with understanding seriousness of this investigation by participants of questionnaire. Purpose of this questionnaire is that after results of 77 participants male and female see from statistical data what they think about Sevdalinka and try to answer my guiding question. Analysing of male female answers is very important example may be while Samuel George Morton American physician and biologist wanted to prove judgment about intelligence between races. There was lack of attention while he analysed and collected data (measurement of skulls) were not relevant because he was not making difference between female and male skulls which were measured.

Qualitative data which was used was dominant in this investigation. Usage of qualitative data is more specific. Data was collected from interviews, anthropological books, internet (web pages, videos), magazines, and participant observation. First interview was done with two participants which belong to different age group purpose of this interviews is to see views about Sevdalinka of teenager and adult participant. These interviews are unstructured interviews they were more likely as conversation. I asked the question named areas in which I am interested so I made a line between me and participant and protect myself from disadvantage of this interview which is too much control of respondent and make less lose of time. Interview with specified person for this art was anonymous and this was email interview because of schedule conflict. Results supposed to be quick but they were not. Purpose of this interview was to understand how the participant who is specified for this art views Sevdalinka and how he /she views interest of young population towards Sevdalinka. Also one of the methodologies which I used was participant observation where I as anthropologist involved in the activities were Sevdalinka is preformed. I was able to see a deeper and more experienced insight on the activities that the individuals of society perform and the ways they think allows me to understand how this all rituals functions. . I observed people on birthdays, family meetings, and marriage ceremonies. Family members as birthday's participants were from different age, sex and religion groups. I did not want them to feel uncomfortable or as if they were being watched so I was also participant in order to no one gets uncomfortable. I was able to understand how and why people start singing. Also I understood how different level of singing and lyrics come from, origin of song. This method is used by Bronislaw Malinowski in his study of Trobrianders and also by other anthropologists which had been doing researches in past because of lack of technology support for making questionnaire. In nowadays modern societies are studied by ethnographic techniques which include observation, interviews and questionnaires. Anthropological books, works of ethnomusicologists as Omer Pobrić, Ludvik Kuba, Cvjetko Rihtman, information from museum are used in order to analyse and answer guiding question.

Data Presentation and Analysis:

As Bosnia and Herzegovina is country with very dynamic historical changes and those changes affected society as well as Sevdalinka. Presence of Ottoman Empire affected Sevdalinka which is folk music of this region. Islam has strict rules about behaviours of men and women between each other and in public. In famous ballad Hasanaginica it is written how it was a shame for supposes to call each other by names or even look at each other in public. Also it has to be considered that gender roles in 17/18th century are not equal because of patriarchy system which was run at time. Because of these circumstances females only way to express her feelings and thoughts was while singing. Because of presence of religion morality is also present in song. Whole structure of architecture changed because houses had to be bigger and with gardens for man and women, Ottoman brought new orientalises melody to Sevdalinka also as new instruments as saz, tambourine and new clothing. Cjetko Rihtman ethnomusicologist studied effects of Ottoman culture to folk music. Also Sevdalinka was like serenade by which young man would come to his beloved women and sings as date in nowadays. Sevdalinka is generally melancholic, sad song of men which has lost beloved one or country. Also cultural transmission is present between Turkish and Bosnian languages in Sevdalinka were Turkish phoneme changes to new but same word in Bosnian. When Austro- Hungarian Empire came to these regions new instrument harmonic was added to spectra of melodies. In communism period public performance of Sevdalinka was forbidden and had high punishments only some of them which were appropriate for that system and society could be preformed. That is cold revitalization movement where even if it was not present completely in managed to be there in our society. This same action happened in other subject religion where Native Americans (Handsome Lake (1800.)) for their wellbeing managed to take advantage of new system and protect their own rituals.

While I was researching I found out that there is on specific sevdalinka present in many cultures, first I known that sevdalinka as Üsküdara giderken/ While going to Üsküdar (part of Ä°stanbul) on Turkish but while I was researching I also recognized melody of song in Bosnian Oj djevojko Anadolko and than in Serbian (KoÅ¡tana) and Greek (Apo tin Athina Oston Pirea) as well as in Spain and Iran. Also I watched documentary about this song on B92 Belgrade television. Real author or country of origin of this song was guessed by many ethnomusicologists example Adele Peeva, but they could not agree its origin but strange is that melody of song from east to west never changed even years later but words of song are changed over time and adapted to their culture and their themes which make identity of that song. It s known that this song was sung since 1930 s till now and that it is spread all over the world by Ottoman empire and Sephardic Jew movements. Sevdalinka is not only song singed by Muslims it s origins are from Muslim culture but it is accepted as identity of all people who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina no matter their religion, class, gender. According to BaÅ¡ić Sevdalinka is "everything about yourself, your country, your identity, and your origins." In 1917, Yugoslav anthropologist and philosopher Vladimir Dvorniković described the peculiar state of his people that was reflected in their music.

While I am analysing data collected I am going to try to answer my guiding question „Does Sevdalinka, as a traditional music in Bosnia and Herzegovina, still have important place in life`s of people from Sarajevo, as a part of their cultural identity.

A total of 77 questionnaires, 58 were female and 19 male were studied. Their age range varied from 16 to 60. By this age range it can be seen from graphs how interest of people change not only for belongings to one generation but also growing in different systems, backgrounds, countries. I used these questions in order to get more information's about sevdalinka and its audience were by getting results I can have clear image of what people think about it. This statement can be proved by research which was done by Franz Boas where he researched how children who grow up in New York differ by anatomy and behaviour from their parents who grow up in Europe. It is important were child grows in which environment cause its thoughts are being constructed unconsciously by surrounding published in his book in 1912.

Graph 1:

37 of 58 of female participants age 30-60 and 16 answered this answer that they listen music.12 of 19 male participants age 30- 60 answered that listen music. This answers prove that older generations grew in different environment were sevdalinka was part of their daily life and was not divided from everyday life and had specific time for singing. 21 of 58 of female participants age 17-34 answered that they do not listen sevdalinka. Also age group of male was same but number of participants was 7. On question why you do not like sevdalinka some participants answered that they do not like rhythm and theme of sevdalinka which is on native language. They listen sevdalinka only when they are on celebrations in order to show respect to one who sings. By immigration of citizens some of them were not able to be closer with sevdalinka and its meaning. By influence of globalization and media it can be seen that younger generations consider primitive everything which is not modern according to criteria given by media. As mostly themes of sevdalinka are sad people have too much their own problems so it for them it is psychologically exhausting.

Graph 2:

In this graph 39% of participants answered that they never listen sevdalinka.28% answered that they listen sevdalinka sometimes and 33% answered that they listen it often.

Graph 3: Where do you usually listen sevdalinka?

53% of participants listen music at home while having birthday parties, family gathering were they are meant to sing and involve in socialization from. 21% of participants listen at special celebrations such as marriage where sevdalinkas lyrics and history can be learned.26% of participants answered as other which includes listening in car and on concerts. Today performers of sevdalinka are modernizing it in order to make it more suitable, closer for younger listeners. Also they are mixing sevdalinka with other genres of music as jazz which became very popular. 45 % of female participants listen music at home, 19% on special celebrations and 36 % on other occasions which were similar to male.

Graph 4:

Statistic information's for male about knowledge of sevdalinka lyrics was very surprising that even those who do not listen it have general knowledge about its lyrics. From female population 11 participants of 21 which do not listen sevdalinka did not know its lyrics.

Graph 5:

From female participants 28 % answered that they do not know origin of sevdalinka while 72% did now actual origin of sevdalinka.89% of male participants knew origin of sevdalinka while 11% of them did not know.

Graph 6:

All participants agree that sevdalinka is part of identity and tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina because it is deeply in all our history and is living proof of it.


While I was doing interview with person who is qualified as artist I asked questions which may be seen in appendix1.1

Interviewers answer to first question was that sevdalinka places very important place in his career and that it is very important to know how to sing sevdalinka in order to be accepted by public as appreciate artist. BB. think that sevdalinka is still part of our culture and identity because it is what distinguishes as from other cultures. From BB s experience it is known that people rather like to listen foreign music instead of trying to understand their own but it is seen that people who live abroad appreciate more their cultural heritage then when they were in their country. Also media affects a lot to thoughts of youth and their decisions so if media would be used rightly Sevdalinka may closer to them then it is today.

Second and third interview I have done simultaneously with two participants which were from different age groups same questions were asked but answers were different. Younger participant answered that Sevdalinka is part of our culture and identity because it is like "Country without history is person with no memory". She / He said that we have to have knowledge about Sevdalinka in order to have right to judge it cause we may not know if we like it or not. I as anthropologist could see relativistic view of this participant. Theme of song is not close to younger generations and modern era. While older generation participant said how she / he had feeling which we expressed in Sevdalinka so it was for them something already known.

While I was doing observation on family gatherings I saw how people no matter which sex, age or religion group they are belong were involved in gathering. Gathering would occur during a meal were people communicate and suddenly at middle of meal start to sing leader would be person who sings well and who is oldest and in respect to that person all the others are continuing singing. Also people from all ages even if they not listen this music every day the all knows from all songs when identity, tradition, culture and religion are mentioned. Then communication continues with remembering old customs rituals and respect shown between each other.


The data collected support the idea that Sevdalinka is still present as cultural identity which is interpreted in different way than it is done actually. Each method is used in order to get results which are proven by various methods. Sevdalinka is still carries significance pieces of identity, tradition, religion and culture. As this was limited research it was limited geographically and timely. In further work I would like to cooperate with House of Sevdah and level up my research to higher degree ,do research in other cities of my country so I could give general informations for further research of qualified organizations.


IB Diploma Programme


Anthropology course work investigation on importance of sevdalinka in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Please answer the following questionnaire all information's received are confidential and are going to be used just for this investigation.


male female

Age :

Do you listen sevdalinka ? yes no

If no why, and after answering please continue to questions?

How often do you listen sevdalinka?




Where do you listen sevdalinka?

At home

Special celebrations (please right down, name other)


Are you familiar with lyrics and music of sevdalinka ?

yes no

Do you know origin of sevdalinka ?

yes no

Do you consider that sevdalinka is part of identity and tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina ?

yes no

What significant places Sevdalinka on our culture nowadays ?


not at all



quite a bit

Appendix 1.01:

Interview 1:

What does Sevdalinka represents to you as an artist?

Is Sevdalinka still part of our culture?

Is Sevdalinka still part of our identity?

From your professional experience is there significance number of listeners of Sevdalinka?

Do you think that in future Sevdalinka may become closer to younger population by mixing with other genres?