2017-12-16
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MISSION 2/3

 
     
     
 

Spying and persecution of Serbs in Diaspora by the "red" Yugoslav government embassy agents is a separate atrocious topic onto itself. Files were kept on most Serbian community members in Diaspora and their extended families back in Yugoslavia, while some prominent activists were even murdered.

As my wife listened, she suddenly asked, " Why don't you correct the situation since you studied music, perform publicly and are captivated by the Serbian patriotic music "? At that time I played accordion, sang and entertained Serbs at gatherings. Whenever I sang a Chetnik song, a large number of those present would sing along. At my next performance, I purposefully paid attention to the age of those people that sang along. This was a middle-aged generation or older that was the backbone of our communities. My wife's words echoed in my ears.

It occurred to me that if I did not try to save Chentik songs, nobody else would. Here is why. It was not difficult to find people from different Serbian regions that can carry a tune and who loved to sing Chetnik songs. Here in Toronto, as in any ethnic community worldwide, Serbs from all regions congregated and formed communities. These communities, for all of us, are a home away from the village or town of our birth. The difficulty was for an outsider to ask individuals to try to remember lyrics and melodies thirty years after the war and to have locals trust that the newcomer will not misuse these songs. I, on the other hand, grew up in our Toronto community, played and sang for Serbian events throughout Canada, had their unwavering trust.

When I began to document Chetnik melodies and lyrics, people I contacted knew two or three songs, mostly the same. But when I collected two or three songs from each Serbian region there was enough material for an album. That album was "Serbian Patriotic Songs" now called "Cvetala mi lipa i topola" (1978). After the first album it became more difficult to find additional songs. In 1980 while I was working on "Songs of Serbian History" concert album, my phone rang. It was Slavko Zubac from Hamilton. He said "come to the Serbian grounds in Hamilton, I have Chetnik songs for you". He sang eight songs into my tape recorder. Slavko learned these songs during the war from a blind accordion player known as "Slepi Knez" (Blind Duke) - (student / private, blind V. Knezevic). Blind Duke, a patriotic song writer of Ravna Gora, went from group to group of Serbian resistance, chose the best singers and taught them to sing Chetnik songs in order to propagate Cica Draza's uprising. Five songs from Slavko and a number of other songs I collected in the meantime was enough material to record the 1981 album, 40 th anniversary of Ravna Gora album, now called "Mi smo Ravnogorci". Sometime later Slavko told me that he was very ill at the time. He thought that he was going to die and did not want songs that he knew follow him to his grave.

That was the beginning.

When this project became public knowledge songs were sent to me from USA, Europe and Australia. Decades later, in December of 2006 my colleague Miloslav Samardzic, editor of Pogledi and an author of a number of history books about Ravna Gora, introduced me to a handful of Serbian historians. Their song contributions and unlimited consultations enabled me to continue recording. Gavrilo Grban, a Serbian Orthodox theologian in Belgrade with a keen interest in history, deserves special thanks for his enormous contribution and patience. For months at a time as each project is being researched, planned and recorded, Gavrilo almost daily answers promptly my questions regarding all aspects of the new project. 

While I did not have any difficulty approaching people that knew Chetnik songs, the dilemma occurred when I looked for folk band musicians for the recording sessions. The fact was that not one experienced Serbian musician or singer was willing to participate. I had to rely on my non-Serbian musician friends (Jewish, Russian, Korean, and Polish) to play background for some of the tracks. With background vocals I had a much better luck. Background vocals were sung by sons and daughters of patriotic and Chetnik parents who had an excellent feel for these songs. For the Serbian participants of these recordings it took a great deal of courage to offer help. I am forever in debt to them for contributing to the ambience of the original interpretation of Chetnik songs now heard throughout the world. Their names are proudly placed on every album on which they performed. The non-Serb musicians had a difficulty internalizing the feel for some of the odd rhythms found in our songs, so I had to learn to play guitar, bass, and frula in order to get a convincing folk band sound.

 

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