Life without music would be sad and dreary. Whether you have the ear for music or are completely tone-deaf, whether you know how to sing, whether you have a tenor, soprano, alto, baritone, bass or 2nd alto, it doesn’t matter. Every one of us is connected to music.
Music has woven itself deeply in our lives to the point where we link some songs to certain life events, be it first loves, weddings, funerals, birth of a child or a period reminiscent of socializing in our youth.
Croatia is a tiny country, yet rich in music and tradition. In December 2012 UNESCO put klapa multipart singing into its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Klapa singing is traditional homophonous singing without instruments (a cappella). Its origin is in Dalmatia, in coastal towns and islands. The most frequent form of multi-voice klapa singing song is in three or four voices.
The phenomenon of klapa singing is an old custom dating back to the 19th century; that is when the first groups, klapa, were formed. It is said that the first groups were formed by men who gathered somewhere in the square, inside a konoba (a small tavern) or beneath a window of a girl and sang songs.
They made up songs on the spot and drew their inspiration from stories of life. In those times, people lived from fishing, agriculture, olives, and vineyards; life in Dalmatia was anything but easy. The families had many children and people lived one day at a time, worked and respected the strength of nature.
Therefore, along with love songs, you will encounter songs about olives, vines, sea and everything else that holds the Mediterranean in its powerful embrace. There are also songs about mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who labored and lived to leave legacy to their children.
It is important to see how those songs came to be accepted and were handed down from one generation to the next. Todays experts on klapa singing researched those old songs and found some in feminine form as well, which proves there were women groups too (women klapa). Those songs were mostly joyful and fast, and they were about love and nature.
Today, klapa singing is reaching its peak. There are 5 to 9 exceptional singers in a klapa group, they have their managers, and travel the world to hold concerts and present the charms of traditional music. Apart from male klapas, there are female, mixed and children klapas.
People change the place where they live, from one part of Croatia to another, so klapa is not strictly tied to Dalmatia anymore, but to the entire country instead. Croatia has about 250 registered klapas. There are also a few important klapa festivals.
The most important (and the oldest) is held in Omiš, a small town only about 30 km from Split. It is known as the Holy Grail of klapa singing. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and is truly one of the most prestigious festivals. The most successful klapas are those who won the most gold medals at this festival: Cambi (male) with 5 golds and Neverin (female) with 6 golds. Both klapas still sing today and are very successful.
Klapa singing is a part of tourism nowadays, especially along the Split - Dubrovnik stretch and we hope you will have the chance to enjoy this beautiful experience while staying in Croatia