Bećarac singing and playing from Eastern Croatia

Bećarac singing and playing from Eastern Croatia

Traditional songs accompanied by instruments are a basis on which many nations build and maintain their cultural identity, but the bećarac is a unique vocal and instrumental song. Jokes and mockery, romantic themes and sexual innuendos, mostly sung as metaphors and allegories, are the main characteristics of these songs that are very popular in the regions of Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia, to say the least. Topics vary depending on the time, place, audience and the singers. The singers themselves need to master a traditional repertoire of themes, but also be prepared to add their own flavour to it, usually a humoresque piece related to a current, everyday topic. It may sound fairly simple, but the basic form of the bećarac is a distich comprised of two decasyllabic verses that need to be made up on the spot and sung using the same melody of 24 measures, one after the other.

 

The bećarac begins with the first verse, while the second is usually an antithesis to the first, performed by other singers who repeat the verses in unison. Naturally, every good singer of the bećarac must give an excellent vocal performance, but above all, he is valued for his quick wit at any given moment. A group of singers that perform this vocal and instrumental song is an integral part of well-known traditional Slavonian weddings, as well as less formal events, festivities and folklore festivals. When it comes to the bećarac, there’s no room for anger in such settings. Even if you are the target of the song, our advice is actually a paraphrase of a popular saying: “What happens in the bećarac, stays in the bećarac!”

 

Although its verses can be quite straightforward, the aim of the bećarac isn’t to offend, as this free form provides a backdrop to many important life events for people in northern Croatia. Its humorous and sometimes provocative nature seems to have only helped its survival, so there is no need to fear that it could die out, especially when it comes to the younger generations that carry on the tradition.