The Social And Cultural Anthropology Cultural Studies Essay

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Sevdah is the traditional music genre of urban town centers of old Bosnia and Herzegovina where merchants from many cultures (Bosnians and Turks mainly, but also Armenians, Roma, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Sephardic Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and others) mingled to create a vibrant city life. The land of current day Bosnia and Herzegovina has been home to Latins, Illyrians, Thracians, and Slavs; was occupied by the Ottoman and Austro Hungarian empires; and ruled under Tito's Communism. This tapestry gave birth to and sustains this emotionally complex expression, equally rich in poetry and melody, which evokes strong emotions in listeners among all those cultures and religions.

The word "sevdah" is of Arabic origin meaning "love" in its many shades from maternal to longing to erotic. Furthermore, it refers to black bile, one of the four humors, or vital fluids, of ancient and medieval medicines. Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood are nothing less than life's essence, the source of emotion.

No wonder, then, that Bosnians hold sevdah so dearly. It is often described as the very soul and ambience of Bosnia and Herzegovina. When Bosnians speak of sevdah, their eyes soften and memories flood their hearts. Often you will see a hand tenderly placed on their heart as they speak of sevdah's meaning in their own lives. When listening, reactions range from deep melancholy to euphoria. On the sadder side, it is often referred to as the Bosnian blues. A subset of sevdah, karasevdah, offers even darker feelings. However, the tender nature of some sevdalinke has been known to calm listeners in therapeutic situations, the melodies being so sweet and mellifluous.

In attempting to describe the musical form of sevdah, ethnomusicologists refer to a number of elements: the influence of Ottoman music beginning in the 16th century with the arrival of the Turks, the importance of the singers' personal interpretation and disposition, as well as common musical features such a Bosnian maqam (Arabic melodic mode), melodic ornamentation, metric devices, Sephardic influences from Spanish Jews and Slavic influences. However, most acknowledge sevdah defies classification. In the Anthology of Bosnian-Herzegovinan Sevdalinka, a CD set published in 2005 by the Folk Music Department of former Radio Sarajevo, ethnomusicologist Tamara Karaæa Beljak sums it up well: "This may be the reason why a formal ethnomusicological analysis cannot lead us to complete perception, and examples recorded through transcription on music sheets say almost nothing without listening. Sevdalinka can exist as a tune and auditory phenomenon, but becomes what it actually is only when sung by an actual singer."

The texts of sevdalinke are equally diverse. Songs speak of unrequited love, yearning, separation from loved ones and distance from homeland. Yet there are light hearted flirtatious songs, too. Rich cultural references abound, as do historical personages and places as in "Kliknu vila sa vrha porima" which describes the troops of Aga Smail Cengic as a snake surrounding Mostar. Poetic imagery paints beautiful scenes of nature, town streets, traditional homes and gardens. The sources of song texts are varied. Songs are passed down through generations, the original author being lost over time. Poems are set to music such as the beloved "Emina" by poet Aleksa Å antic (1868-1924), "Kraj vrbasa sjedi momce" by Jozo Penava (1931- ), "AkÅ¡am geldi" by Mostar's pride Osman Ðikic (1879-1912) and "Kraj tanana Å¡adrvana" by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). New sevdalinke are being composed even today.

Sevdah music was traditionally found in wealthy Ottoman homes for small gatherings of friends and family, by men and women in their separate quarters and gardens. Additionally, sevdalinke were also heard in taverns, coffee houses, picnics (teferic), gatherings of friends (sijelo) and exchanged between courting sweethearts through garden gates. In the 20th century with the advent of recording, radio and television, sevdah reached a significantly broader audience and, some feel, lost an intimate beauty afforded only in smaller settings. Sevdah became popular throughout, and among immigrants from, all of former Yugoslavia.

Instrumentation also underwent a transformation. Traditionally sevdalinke were accompanied by saz (a long necked lute originally from Iran introduced in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Turks), however accordions, tamburitza (a mandolin-like school of instruments) and large orchestras became the norm in concerts and recordings from the 20th century.

With all this change, one element remains unchanged, the quality of the sevdah singer as the most critical element. The finest sing with emotion, restrained passion, depth and integrity. The style has been compared to Portuguese fado, American blues and Greek rembetika. Singers can touch a note so delicately as to break your heart or send their voices through the roof with emotion and power.


I as a citizen of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to study if sevdalinka is still present in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is it still one of the puzzles which makes mosaic of multiculturalism? Among the many things to study about this topic , I specifically wanted to look how much significant sevdalinka places on our culture in nowadays ,is it still part of identity and tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina? Objectives will be achieved by doing questionnaires ,interviews and observations on citizens who live in Sarajevo capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Investigation : Methodology and Problems

In order to address the research issue ,three types of fieldwork methods were utilized. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected through participant observation, key informant interviews, observations and a questionnaire.

From qualitative data I used interviews, life histories(ex. life history of Omer Pobrić and his influence of modernization of sevdalinka), case studies from anthropologist as Cvjetko Rihtman , [1] Risto Pekka Pennanen which studied Recording Bosnia's musical heritage: from the Austro-Hungarian era to World War II  and also case studies which we studied on our classes which are related with ethnicity and identity. From quantitative data I will use / used were surveys.

Questionnaires were the first method used. I thought that collecting of information's would be easier to collect and approach would be more [2] ethical.

Even If I told participants about confidently identity I had problems with relativity of answers because people who answered questionnaire answered those thing which they consider I want to hear. Because of doing written questionnaire collection and summarizing of information s were difficult. In future if I am going to do questionnaire on web page / site which would calculate percentage and number of answers. Until now I gave questionnaire to 77 participants of this investigation. I chose 9 questions because long survey would be survey with relevant information s. Concentration of participant is being lower by doing survey more than 2 or 5 minutes. Questions are clearly stated so participant do not have to think a lot to understand question.

Secondly I have chosen observation method. I observed people on birthdays, family meetings. Family members as birthdays participants were from different age, sex and religion groups. I did not wanted them to feel uncomfortable or as if they being watched. I was also participant so no one felt 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. Also I chose [3] key informant which helped me to understand actions which they were performing. Also I used interview which was done by email. I used email interview while I was conducting interview with person with which I had schedule conflict and still have. Advantage of this method that it is quick and cheap. Disadvantage is that person who answers takes more time and writes a long story about what they think I want from them. I am planning to do more interviews but in future I will use directive interview method to avoid these disadvantages.

I used methods as interview ,questionnaire and observation to be sure by looking and analysing all of three methods find a middle which I can consider as relevant. Also while doing questionnaire I put a point to differences between gender and age. Because in anthropology it is proven that if we do not analyse our project from variety ways our information would not be relevant. 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.

Data Presentation and Analysis

During my participant observation, I could observe people easily. I observed people at different paces and at different time. On family meetings participants were from all age and national groups. Usually meetings began by conversation of all relatives and drinking coffee. While drinking coffee people talked about diseases, happy moments and suddenly of relatives by listening story about disease starts to sing sevdalinka about that. Sevdalinka which is about love and illness of two beloved "Žute Dunje"(Yellow quince ).All relatives are involved by singing or clapping hands. History influenced people and song sevdalinka a lot. By observing family members on meeting I could see that there were a lot of people who immigrated during the wars in these region ,Balkan sadness, homesickness, nostalgia and longing for their homeland, friends and family was seen through their speech, themes about which they talked ,words of sevdalinka which they were singing. Appearance of this also was seen in study of "Music as Medicine: Sevdalinka Songs Help Bosnian Immigrants and Refugees Remember and Heal". 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, your origins."

4"Origin and identity are complex concepts in Bosnia. Sevdalinka's roots are in the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, and many of its motifs and its language are influenced by Islamic traditions. But the song was not immune to influences from Christian Serbs and Croats, Sephardic Jews and even Roma.

"We are fusion and confusion," said Srđan Kolarević, a musician in Washington, D.C. "That's our beauty and our curse.""

In March 2008 for the first time scholars convened in Sarajevo to discuss the status of sevdalinka in Bosnia's cultural heritage. "Sevdalinka is a national good, and a national brand," said politician Irfan Ajanovic.

5In 1917, Yugoslav anthropologist and philosopher Vladimir Dvorniković described the peculiar state of his people that was reflected in their music.

"Even without sorrow, sorrow is always present, even without lament, the elegiac note may still be heard -he said-. Whether Orthodox or Muslim or Catholic, it is always and everywhere the same, monotonous and desperate in its tedium, always the same song, always verging on tears."

There was 58 female participants 37 of them answered as yes and 21 one of them answered as no.

Female which answered as yes were in age group (16)30 - 60.

Female which answered as no were in age group 17-34.

On question if you do not listen sevdalinka explain why most of participant said that they do not like sevdalinka. Some of the participants said that they do not like rhythm and theme of sevdalinka.They prefer not to listen music which is on native language. They listen sevdalinka only when they have to when they are on celebration and by this behavior they are showing respect towards those who sing sevdalinka. People which lived abroad they were not exposed to sevdalinka enough .Younger participants do not like way of performing sevdalinka voice of singer. If their parents do not listen sevdalinka it is small possibility self showing desire to that kind of music.

There was 19 male participants 12 of them answered as yes and 7 of them answered no.

Male which answered as yes were in 30-60 age group.

Male which answered as no were in age group 17-34.

Male participants usually listen sevdalinka in car and on family meetings ,birthdays , party s.

They go on concerts and listen to new singers of sevdalinka which changed it to jazz.

Female listen sevdalinka in occasions such as weddings, birthdays, New Year. Some participants which answered questionnaire were not listening sevdalinka but they no how to sing if someone else puts sevdalinka on or if they are in school hanging out.

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 the 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