Kazan: Ružo​

May 13, 2019

All You Need Is Love

Listening Post 201. Based on his study of birdcalls, Darwin came to believe that love songs, no less than love itself, were essential to human propagation. Opting for science over criticism, however, he never weighed in on one conundrum: Whether a romantic ballad is beautiful or tedious often has little or no bearing on its success in courtship. A case in point is Ružo (Rose), the debut album of the Croatian ensemble Kazan. Their traditional love songs in retro-modern garb are uniformly enchanting—a tribute, if you will, to the evolutionary chain—even though some tell stories of loss and doom. Led by Dunja Bahtijarević’s luxurious, crystalline voice and backed by flute, violin and guitars that often circle each other as playfully or unavailingly as lovers, the album roams the western Balkans with songs in Serbo-Croatian dialects (from Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia) and in Macedonian. In Ravno polje (Open Field), there’s an exquisite ache in a young woman’s entreaties to her sweetheart: “I hurl myself after him, offering apples, and he won’t even throw stones at me” (video 1). The accelerating pace of Javor (Maple Tree) animates a ballad of fidelity and secrecy (video 2); while a Balkan-noir flourish announces Dunajski Most (The Danube Bridge), a tale of love and death (video 3). Badem (Almond Tree) depends on folk-rock energy and rakija, a potent fruit brandy, to close the curtain on its romantic tableau (video 4). Kazan’s acute attention to blending cultures, tempos, eras and states of desire is reflected in its name, referring to a metal cooking pot, common from southeastern Europe to Central Asia, suited to mixing ingredients. At turns joyful and melancholy, scenic and metaphoric, bittersweet and fatal, the band’s recipes fit many descriptions—including Darwinian. Choosing music over science, Kazan delivers the same all-embracing message: We love, therefore we are. (Geenger Records)

Kazan: Ružo​
Dunja Bahtijarević: voice
Tatjana Bijelić: flute
Lucija Stanojević: violin
Danijel Maoduš: guitar
Zvonimir Mikulandra: guitar
Sebastian Jurić: bass guitar
Marko Šturman: percussion


Ravno polje/Open Field
Lyrics & Music: Traditional, Croatia

(from the Serbo-Croatian lyrics)
The open field fills me with sadness
For it is where my sweetheart walked, leaving me
I hurl myself after him, offering apples*
And yet he wouldn’t even throw stones at me

*The apple is a symbol of love and marriage


Javor/Maple Tree
Lyrics & Music: Traditional, Montenegro

(from the Serbo-Croatian lyrics)
Stars flickering in the sky, maple tree*/Stars flickering in the sky, my beloved
Keep our secrets, darling, maple tree/Keep our secrets, darling, my beloved

I would rather lie in the grave as a young woman, maple tree
I would rather lie in the grave as a young woman, my beloved
Than give our secrets away, maple tree
Than give our secrets away, my beloved

*The maple is a common refrain device in Balkan traditional songs, often with no specific connection to a song’s theme


Dunajski most/The Danube Bridge
Lyrics & Music: Traditional, Međimurje region of Croatia

(from the Serbo-Croatian lyrics)
What happened at the Danube bridge/A young man was killed and thrown into the Danube
The water could not hold him/So it threw him to a high mountain.

His mother came to see him and saw his blond hair pressed close to his head
His father came to see him and saw his waistcoat buttoned up against his chest
His sweetheart came to see him and saw a nice silver ring on his finger.

What happened at the Danube bridge?
A young man was killed and thrown into the Danube
A young man was killed because of a young woman


Badem/бадем/Almond Tree
Lyrics & Music: Traditional, Macedonia

The Macedonian lyrics describe a young couple sitting under an almond tree (a symbol of love and fertility), drinking rakija and, in the end, kissing



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