News / Arts & Entertainment

Band Keeps European Musical Heritage Alive

Harmonia, an Eastern European folk ensemble from Cleveland has released a new CD, “Hidden Legacy.
Harmonia, an Eastern European folk ensemble from Cleveland has released a new CD, “Hidden Legacy." (Courtesy Harmonia)
Adam Phillips
To see Harmonia founder Walt Mahovlich at work with his band, Harmonia, is to see a man passionate about music from the so-called old country. It's a love that developed during his Cleveland childhood decades ago, when his Hungarian mother and Croatian father exposed him to the music at home, in taverns, on picnics and at weddings.

Today, he's on a mission to spread its joy with a nine-member Eastern European folk ensemble from Cleveland that has released a new CD, “Hidden Legacy.”     .    

“Number one, I would like people to know that our music represents America and the American experience as much as anything," Mahovlich says. "We certainly want people frankly to enjoy it and to share in the exuberance and passion of this music. We don’t want it to be remain hidden.”

Today, the cultural traditions of Cleveland’s Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans aren't widely known.
Band Keeps European Musical Heritage Alive
Band Keeps European Musical Heritage Alivei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


But a half century ago, the city's Buckeye Road district specialized shops and eateries with storefront signs in several languages. Mahovlich says one could sometimes tell the old timers’ country of origin by the way they dressed. Today, he says, one must peer inside church basements, taverns and dancehalls for a glimpse into another world.

“You go through that door and suddenly you are at a party that might feel like you are in rural Western Ukraine, or you might go into a bar and suddenly you might as well be in Zagreb or Novi Sad in Croatia or Serbia," he says. "Or you drive down a country road and suddenly you are smelling roasted lambs or Hungarian goulash and you are hearing this music that you might as well be someplace in Hungary or Slovakia.”

Alex Fedoriouk, a conservatory graduate, plays the cimbalom, a 125-string hammer dulcimer that resembles the innards of a grand piano.

In Ukraine, he often traveled with a cimbalom strapped to his back to reach weddings in remote mountain villages. Sometimes the parties would last for days. Today, Fedoriouk plays the cymbalom as part of Harmonia.



"Some of the songs we play, they’ve been played hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of years ago," Fedoriouk says, "and they have been refined and polished and changed just a little bit, and it’s such a pure form. "

Music can have other uses than entertainment. Mahovlich says one ancient melody performed by Harmonia was once played by gypsies all over Romania.   

"The men would dance very vigorously to this music to bring health, fertility, happiness, and drive away evil spirits from the village," he says.

However, the meaning has changed.

"We don't live in villages in the United States," Mahovlich says. "So the meaning of this music has changed. The meaning now is that this shows we are Romanians. We will teach our kids how to do it.  It's a symbol of who we are."

Harmonia uses rarely-heard instruments such as the “fujura, a two-meter long shepherd’s flute that Brano Brinarsky brought here from the Slovakian highlands.

Many consider the human voice to be Eastern Europe's instrument par excellence, and Harmonia’s Slovakia-born Beata Begeniova, who sings in six languages, expresses a wide range of emotion with her voice.  

Mahovlich says for many years, mainstream Americans felt ethnic music was backward, and sometimes immigrants were made to feel embarrassed about performing it in public.    

But he's heartened by how Harmonia’s music has been embraced by young people, along with the usual fans, at recent concerts.        

"And it was so nice to see a crowd that consisted of college students, art students, old ‘babas’ - old grandmothers - wearing headscarves and even some businessmen, all together in the same place. They found it new and electrifying. We're all Americans.”

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.