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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Graham Nash has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once for his work with The Hollies and once as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The legendary folk-rocker joins "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his latest project, “CSN 2012,” which captured on video recent live performances by Crosby, Stills & Nash.