The Slovak Music Shop
The Slovak Folk Ensemble Oravan was established in 1951 and this recording was made while they were on tour in America.
Oravan represents one of the regions of Slovakia named Orava and is directed by Gustav Sochan.
The ensemble represents the folklore heritage of the whole region the name of which it carries emphasizing the significant districts of the region.
Dolna Orava - Zaskov, Parnica, Velicna then Studena dolina (Cold valley) and from under Rohace Mountain - Zuberec, Habovka, then the Goral district- Sucha Hora, Hladovka, Cimhova, Brezovica, then from under Babia Hora - Oravske Vesele, Sihelne, Oravska Polhora, and of course from the very place of their action, Nizna.
It is obvious that the repertoire of the group includes representation from other regions all over the Slovak Republic, Zemplin, Saris, Horehronie, Liptov, Kysuce, Myjava, Podpolanie, and more.
Orovan has performed at international folk festivals in their native Slovakia along with Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Russia, Austria, Israel, and the United States.
The ensemble consists of a musical part, dancing part, and soloists who sing and play the ancient folk instruments of the Slovak Republic like the Slovak shepherd's horn - the fujara, flutes, bag pipes, drumbla, and more.
If you are looking for genuine Slovak folk music performed my talented Slovak natives, this recording is a good choice. A rousing traditional version of Tancuj Tancuj is the grande finale on this recording.
Available on cassette, this recording sells for $9.00 for cassette and $15.00 for CD plus shipping and handling.
Oravan plays good examples of the musical traditions from the northwest of Slovakia, mostly using the major or lydian scale (i e the fourth tone is a half tone higher than in the common major scale). Recordings from this region are hard to find even in Slovakia today. Most tracks are played by a string band with dulcimer and accordion.
Side 1 contains music from the southern part of the Orava region, mostly up-tempo dance music in the local style, but also the odd waltz, polka and czardas.
Side 2 is mainly devoted to the music of the Gorals, an ethnic subgroup speaking a polish dialect but with essentially Slovak culture. They live in the northern part of Orava and across the border in Poland. Goral music is easily recognized by the peculiar ostinato rhythm, it is often tuned high and uses the lydian scale.
The two final tracks on side 2 are two Slovak megahits, played all over the country: Nepij Jano, nepij vodu and Tancuj, tancuj.
Some input on goral culture: it isn't really specifically Slovak - it's a pastoral culture that's shared throughout the Carpathians, from the Valassko region of Moravia through the southern tip of Silesia, across the Slovak and Polish mountains, through southeast Ukraine and into Romania. The culture was shaped by the Wallachian migrations of the 15th to 17th (into early 18th?) centuries, when bands of multi-ethnic nomadic shepherds wandered through the Carpathians and established settlements. This is why the Carpathian highlanders of all the ethnic groups in that area are primarily shepherds with a common culture, while the lowlanders of the same ethnic groups are farmers. In some ways, ethnically Slovak highlanders have more in common with their ethnically goral neighbors and with highlanders from Moravia or far-off Romania than they do with lowlander Slovaks.
That Lydian scale is really haunting, isn't it! I've read it originates in the traditional highland flutes without fingerholes, where it's the natural scale. The different notes of the scale are achieved by how hard you blow, and by opening or closing the end of the flute with your index finger - you get one series of notes with the flute end open, and another with the end closed. Put them together, and you get the Lydian scale.
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