The evening opened with the Klapa Samoana out of New Zealand’s Auckland, and saw performances by the mixed Klapa Kartolina out of Windsor, Canada, the male Klapa Croatia München from Germany, the female Klapa Valovi out of Argentina and the Klapa Astoria from New York, USA.
For any klapa ensemble an appearance at the festival in Omiš is the pinnacle of achievement. This also stands true for klapa ensembles from our diaspora communities. The Omiš festival was founded back in 1967 and has made a massive contribution to the preservation and development of the art of klapa singing and the wealth of traditional Croatian music. In 2012 it was added to the UNESCO list of humanity’s intangible culture and thus recognised as part of our shared cultural wealth.
The Omiš festival has collaborated with the Croatian Heritage Foundation to stage performances featuring klapa ensembles from the diaspora communities on two occasions, in 2006 and 2008. Mijo Stanić, the director of the Omiš Festival of Dalmatian Klapa Singing, says that these gatherings are vital to the preservation of Croatian heritage among the diaspora communities and in the transmission of traditions to younger generations. Events like these are now also being organised where klapa groups abroad stage events featuring ensembles from the old country and other countries that are home to people of ethnic Croatian extraction.
This year’s Omiš festival on the 12th of July was opened by the always attractive Klapa Samoana out of New Zealand’s Auckland. Founded under the wing of a local Croatian civic centre by non-Croatians, who have learned the language “on the go”, this klapa ensemble nurtures the a cappella tradition with a Pacific flavour. Every performance in Croatia is a sure draw for audiences. This time they offered their rendition of Oliver Dragojević’s Moj anđele (“My Angel”) in memory of this late easy listening legend.
This was followed by a performance by the mixed Klapa Kartolina out of the Canadian city of Windsor, active under the wing of the St Francis of Assisi Croatian Catholic parish. This klapa ensemble was founded in 2013 and is led Višnja Tijardović, a graduate of the Music Academy in Split. Most of the seven band members were born in Croatia and moved to Canada from various parts of the country. They staged their first klapa concert in Windsor in 2015, an event that has now become a tradition. Early in July the group performed at a Canada Day event in Zagreb. Aiming to pass on Croatian klapa music traditions to youth Višnja Tijardović has spent the past four years training a children’s group, the Klapa Fritulice, which has already chalked up a number of well-received performances, including an attractive appearance at the Omiš festival. This ensemble sings a repertoire of French, English and Croatian language tunes.
To bring the audience at Omiš in touch with another form of a cappella singing the festival’s director Mijo Stanić invited Studio 4, a barbershop quartet from the United States of America that nurtures a traditional form of singing with roots in the period at the turn of the 18th to 19th century and influenced by Afro-American music. This was their first ever appearance in Croatia and in Europe as a whole.
The evening continued with a performance by the male Klapa Croatia München, active since 1989. The repertoire of this band includes classic klapa melodies, sacral and patriotic tunes. Joining the other bands was the female Klapa Valovi out of Argentina, which has a collaboration contract with the Omiš festival. This ensemble was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002. The members of Klapa Valovi are daughters of first-generation immigrants and they are all fluent in Croatian. The band has two Compact Disc releases behind it and joined forces two years ago with the male Klapa BA to organise the first ever klapa gathering in Argentina.
This was followed by the Klapa Astoria out of New York in the United States of America taking the stage. This band has already performed for audiences at the Omiš festival. Most of the ensemble members have roots in the southern Croatian region of Dalmatia. Their recent appearance at the Madison Square Garden indoor arena to sing the US anthem ahead of an NBA basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knickerbockers in the Dalmatia klapa style has made them a hit on the YouTube video-sharing website. Festival director Stanić took the opportunity to present ensemble member Tomislav Smodlaka a commemorative gift as the only performer to have also taken the stage at the first klapa festival in Omiš back in 1967.
The evening closed with all the performers taking the stage to join the audience in singing the tune Da te mogu pismom zvati (“If I Could Call You with a Song”). The audience prize (Soparnik za poljičku nevistu) was presented to Višnja Tijardović.
The appearance at the festival in Omiš was part of a mini tour that kicked off in Bol on the island of Brač, then moved on to Šibenik and Omiš and closed with Klape na Kruniku, a meeting of klapa ensembles in Kučine near the town of Solin.
By: Branka Bezić Filipović