English Feature #7-35756 Broadcast December 31, 2001
Cleveland, Ohio, is a mid-western American city that has been attracting and absorbing immigrants from East Europe since the 19th century. The traditions and cultures that these immigrants bring with them often transcend narrow ethnic barriers to become part of the flourishing Cleveland cultural scene, and then move on into the American mainstream. Today on New American Voices we feature an East European band from Cleveland that moves American audiences around the country to stomping and dancing.
Music: Sarba Lui Pompieru
The Harmonia band performs traditional music from what they call the Heart of Europe, a region that stretches from the Danube to the Carpathian Mountains. The melodies may be Ukrainian, or Croatian, or Slovak, or Hungarian, or Gypsy, but they are played with a virtuosity and passion that tugs both at the heart and at the feet.
Music: Sarba Lui Pompieru
The members of the Harmonia band are mostly new Americans, with roots in the same East European region as the music they play. Walt Mahovlich, who founded Harmonia ten years ago, was born in the United States, but of Croatian and Hungarian parentage. He says that growing up in Cleveland, he was surrounded by East European music virtually from birth.
"I grew up hearing this kind of music. My mom sang around the house, we would hear Hungarian music while she was cleaning the house. We would go to picnics, my dad would take me to picnics where I would hear the "tambouraci" play. And so I was around it all the time. The first song I learned, when I was, oh, I don't know, maybe 3 or 4 years old, was a song in Croatian taught to me by my dad."
The band that Walt Mahovlich organized originally played in cafes, at weddings and christenings and dances in the ethnic communities of Cleveland.
"But a few years ago we decided to take Harmonia and start presenting concerts, and we found out that folks across the country really seemed to enjoy this music. And also one of the things that I've seen is that folks who are in their 20s and younger have no preconceived notion about this stuff, no idea that it's uncool or that its just something for your grandmother to do. They really like this stuff, and they relate to it."
Music: Roumanian Figura
"The music's very emotional, it's got a range of emotion, everything from despair to ecstasy, and a lot of fire and passion, and that seems to resonate with folks."
Music: In Memorium Soproni Tendl Pal
These days Harmonia plays to enthusiastic audiences at concerts and dances all across the United States. Next week on New American Voices some of the other members of the band talk about their life and their music. In the meantime, we wish you health, happiness, and above all peace in the New Year!