- Sevdalinka is a traditional genre of folk music from Bosnia and Herzegovina.In musical sense, sevdalinka is characterized by a slow or moderate tempo and rich harmony, leaving a melancholic feeling with the listener. Sevdalinka songs are very elaborate, emotionally charged and are traditionally sung with passion and fervor.
The combination of Oriental, European and Sephardic elements make this type of music stand out among other types of folk music from the Balkans. The singer will often impose the rhythm and tempo of the song, both of which can vary throughout the song. Traditionally, sevdalinkas are women’s songs, most addressing the issue of love and longing, unfulfilled and unfortunate love, some touch on a woman’s physical desire for her loved one, and some have comic elements.
Currently they are often performed by men as well. Traditionally, they were played without any instruments, hence the elaborate harmony. Modern interpretations are followed by a small orchestra containing accordion (the most prominent), violin, nylon-string guitars and/or other string instruments (occasionally), flute or clarinet (occasionally), upright bass, snare drum. In between the verses, an accordion or violin solo can almost always be heard.
- The origins of sevdalinka are not known for certain, though it is known to date from sometime after the arrival of the Turks in medieval Balkans. The word itself comes from the Turkish sevda which derives from the Arabic word sawda (meaning black and also black bile, which in earlier times was used by doctors to denote a substance purported to control human feelings and emotions. But in Turkish sevda doesn’t mean black; it means love, caressing. That word was brought to Bosnia by the Ottomans.
Today it is a richly evocative Bosnian word meaning love, caressing, longing (for loved one), and the main theme of sevdalinka lyrics. Thus the people of Bosnia employ the words “sevdalinka” and “sevdah” interchangeably as the name of this music, although the word sevdah can also be used in other meanings. It is possible that the central term in Portuguese Fado saudade is of the same origin.
March 1, 2012