If I had to guess, I would say that my love of all things related to traditional cultures started in my grandparent’s living room. Our fairly frequent family gatherings would often involve some Scottish airs and folk songs, my grandfather on the fiddle. Sadly, us grandchildren didn’t learn the songs although I recognize most of the melodies (I started learning the violin with my daughters, and one of my goals is to learn those songs).
One of my favourite memories is of listening and dancing to some jig or reel after a day of haying in the summer. At that time haying was a family affair, involving many hands, lots of food, major itch caused by sweat mixing with hay seed, and rides in the back of a pick up on swaying piles of hay bales. Hay used to be made into square bales, which are actually rectangular, and they were leaned against each other like a pyramid so that if it rained the water would run off instead of soaking into the dry hay, like this. We still did it by hand, lifting and carrying each bale.
Anyway, we were relaxing after a day of hard work by playing music, when an evening thunderstorm started and everybody dashed out in the rain to stook the bales in the field behind the house. My sister and I went out under an umbrella and tried to lift the bales but we were still too little to lift them. Afterwards we sat on my grandmother’s couch, counting the time between thunder. One Mississippi, two Mississippi…
Now that I live in Slovakia, I’ve fallen in love with traditional folk culture here. Elaborately decorated dress, each area with it’s own specific style. Even the embroidery style differs between towns 5 km apart. Dance, music, handmade crafts, art. Even if you don’t speak Slovak, these are languages that everybody can enjoy.
My two older girls joined a children’s folk group in our village. Four moms who had danced as youth wanted the same for their kids, and čerešenka (diminutive of the cherry tree in the local dialect) was born. They brought on another experienced teacher and practised.
I love that they are learning their culture. I love that they are being involved in music, both dancing and singing. I love when we are driving in the car and instead of bickering they break into song. Or when one starts a song, the other joins in.
To them, it’s nothing special. It’s just something they do, one of the activities they are involved in. I hope, though, as they get older they develop an appreciation for what they’ve learned. An appreciation of their culture, of music, of the satisfaction of singing together.
Thank you, Katka, Hela, Andrea, and Gabika, for giving the children here the chance to learn, develop, and experience their own culture!
They recently had a concert and I was impressed at what the children had managed to learn in a short time. First the children danced, then a folk group of young musicians called FidliCanti played (they really are amazing and have a few cds out), then the children again, followed by a men’s group Zaruby, and then ending with the children. (Videos below the photos)
Below are a few videos. The first is a short and abrupt version, taken by a shaky me. I didn’t think of taking video until halfway through. The second is the first of three of the whole concert, taken by Vladimir Fandel, click through to see the other two parts on my YouTube account.