News / Arts & Entertainment

Band Keeps European Musical Heritage Alive

Harmonia, an Eastern European folk ensemble from Cleveland has released a new CD, “Hidden Legacy." (Courtesy Harmonia)
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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Leyla McCalla takes up not only the guitar, but the banjo and cello to perform songs from her new disc, “A Tribute to Langston Hughes,” music that mixes the Creole rhythms of Haiti with the French Quarter flavor of New Orleans on this edition of "The Hamilton Live."