Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

15. The Verbuňk under the Pressure of World Fame

Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

Zuzana Jurkova [+-]
Charles University Prague
Zuzana Jurková studied ethnology and musicology at the Philosophical Faculty at Charles University and at the music conservatory in Brno. She is professor and head of the Institute for Ethnomusicology at the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University, focused mainly on the research of musics of minorities (Voices of the Weak 2009, Sounds from the Margins 2013). She concentrates on Romani music (with several publications and an Open Society Fund grant in 1996-8), the history of Czech ethnomusicology (for her Ph.D. and a Fulbright scholarship in Bloomington in 1998) and, in recent years, urban ethnomusicology (Pražské hudební světy 2013; Prague Soundscapes 2014). She has been awarded numerous international grants, including a Fulbright Research Fellowship (Indiana University Bloomington) and Ruth Craword Mitchell Fellowship (University of Pittsburgh).


In 2005 the Slovácko (a region in southeastern Moravia) verbunk, a male dance with singing, was the first of the cultural phenomena of the Czech lands to be put on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (Afterwards, three others followed, of which the Ride of the Kings is connected with the same region.) There is no doubt that this dance has been performed for a long time in Moravia, but only in the past decades has it attracted intensive attention of different types of folklorists. Primarily, at the biggest folklore festival in the CR – In the Slovácko celebrations in Strážnice (a regional center) a contest for the best Slovak verbunk dancer has been taking place since the mid-’1980s; at it the victors of the local contests are compared. The Strážnice “celebrations” are organized by the National Institute of Folk Culture (NÚLK) in Strážnice, a folklore institute that publishes scientific and popularizing materials, including those dedicated to the verbunk. It was also from there that the initiative for inscription onto the UNESCO list emerged. NÚLK materials and personal connections of its workers nurture the extensive regional folklore movement (e.g. verbunk lessons), incomparable in other Czech lands. On one hand there is no doubt that initiatives of folklorists influence in many ways the reality connected to the verbunk (including completely decontextualized use of the word verbunk) and so it is a kind of Hobsbawm’s 1983 invented tradition. On the other hand, however, the verbunk is not performed anywhere except Slovácko – despite more than a century of the existence of so-called Slovácko circles in many towns of the CR. It seems then that this phenomenon is inseparably connected to the dense network of local culture, including the component of “tradition”.

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Jurkova, Zuzana. 15. The Verbuňk under the Pressure of World Fame. Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 300-315 Feb 2020. ISBN 9781781797594. Date accessed: 11 Jul 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35840. Feb 2020

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