On November 29th and 30th 2023, for the occasion of five-year anniversary since singing to the accompaniment of the gusle was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia at the Ethnographic Museum organized a program where the element of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle was presented, with participation of experts, guslars, guslars’ associations and cultural institutions, while the results of implemented activities on preservation of this element of “living heritage” of Serbia in the years after inclusion in the list were discussed and reviewed.
The two-day program included the expert meeting, the presentation of the activities of element bearers (individual guslars and guslars’ associations) on preservation of gusle playing, as well as an in vivo presentation of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle, with participation of guslars of different generations.
At the beginning of the program, the attendees were greeted by Marko Krstić, Acting Director of the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade, Dr Danka Lajić Mihajlović on behalf of the SASA Institute of Musicology, and Željko Čurović, president of the Union of Guslars of Serbia, while the opening speech was performed by Miodrag Ivanović, State Secretary in the Ministry of Culture.
The results of active work on preservation of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle were presented by the experts who participated in the creation of the nomination file: Dr Danka Lajić Mihajlović, Phethnomusicologist from the SASA Institute of Musicology, Dr Smiljana Đorđević Belić, folklorist-philologist from the Institute for Literature and Art, Belgrade, as well as Danijela Filipović, ethnologist-anthropologist, coordinator of the Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Serbia. The expert meeting was an opportunity to highlight the positive effects of the registration through a review of the conservation goals and measures defined in the nomination file, with the most important effect of increased visibility of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle at the national level, but also to point out the necessity of systematic work and intensive cooperation between individual guslars, guslars’ associations and institutions belonging to the “living heritage” preservation system.
Starting with the importance of education and transmission of the element of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle, one important segment of the program was dedicated to understanding the framework in which formal and informal gusle-playing education takes place. The experiences in education, primarily of youngest guslars, were shared by teachers and organizers in music schools where the subject of Gusle-playing is a part of regular curriculum: Slavko Jeknić from the Music School “Mokranjac” from Belgrade and Radovan Peković from the Music School “Stevan Mokranjac” from Kraljevo, while Vukojica Sandić, the initiator of the “Sandić” Gusle-Playing School in Belgrade, spoke about the work in the informal education program.
Bojana Peković, a guslar and a student at the “Sibelius” Academy at Helsinki, greeted the audience through a video link and spoke about her experience of learning how to play this instrument, while the most successful young guslars, Vasilije Golubović, Marija Petričević, Stefan Tomonjić and Luka Pajević, presented their skills of singing to the accompaniment of the gusle.
The final part of the first day of Program included a concert by guslars of the younger generation – Miroslav Tanović, Đorđe Pavlović and Vuk Ivanović.
The second day of Program was dedicated to practical work of transferring the basic knowledge on the instrument of gusle and the playing technique, within the workshop guided by Slavko Aleksić in cooperation with Nikola Jeknić, while actor Lazar Dubovac presented his work on bringing epic poetry to the modern audience by performing epic poems “Banović Strahinja” and “Emperor Lazar and Empress Milica” as a new interpretation.
The two-day Program was completed with a lecture by Dr Boško Suvajdžić, Full Professor at the Philology Faculty of Belgrade University, on topic “Banović Strahinja in an Epic Time Machine”.
The program was accompanied by an exhibition of selected gusle instruments from the Collection of Musical Instruments of the Ethnographic Museum and screening of video material, representing original film of gusle playing prepared for the nomination file.