7.   Babino Polje, the island of Mljet

The older tradition of monodic singing, the soloistic singing of epic songs and ballads, is a living traditional musical practice of Southern Dalmatian island of Mljet. Hexacordal melodic structures, parlando-rubato, free rhythm structure, glissando and specific ornamentations are the principal features of the singing style from Mljet [23]. These features are entirely different from accustomed epic song repertory singing (small ambitus, simple melodic curves, clear rhythmic patterns, short repeated motifs). Structurally, the singing of epic songs and ballads from the island of Mljet is analogous to women's (urban) song repertory from the inner, Bosnian, regions [24]. The other notable attribute is the content of the songs. The content of the epics is frequently presented in balladic style where family related themes and adventure and novel-like long stories dominate over the heroic, epic  contents (Dukic 1992:35) [25].

The second part of the video clip introduces a dancing tradition of the island of Mljet. In Southern Dalmatia, it is common that singing does not accompany dancing; singers sing only in breaks between the dances. According to Ivan Ivancan, the dances in Southern Dalmatia used to serve as places of social contact, practically the only social occasions on which male and female could meet socially (Ivancan 1973:462).

Skampabosko dance is indigenous dance from the island of Mljet. The dance starts in the two parallel lines (contradanza) where the dancers (male and female)  face each other. Some of the dance figures of Skampabosko reminds on the figures of the chain dances. The rest of the dance figures have common features to the Hinterland dance tradition (open circle kolo formation)  where first dancer (kolovoda) leads the dance (Ivancan 1973:233). The most interesting moment of the dance is the figure when male dancer chasing the female dancer [26].

The oldest and likely the most popular dance of the island of Mljet is couple dance Poskocica - lindjo (The hopping dance) [27].  During the poskocica the dance leader - kolovoda, calls out the commands sometimes in rhymes, to indicate changes in dancing figures and sometimes also to create a better general atmosphere that stimulates dancers to more spirited dancing [28].


Babino Polje  (part 1)

(file wmv, 1'15", 1.41 Mb)






Babino Polje  (part 2)

(file wmv, 1'21", 1.53 Mb)




The lijerica playing is accompaniment for the traditional dances of the island of Mljet. During the performance, lijerica player (lijericar, sonatur, sinjatur, glumac) is sitting on the chair holding the instrument on the knee. With the opposite leg the player is tapping his foot, marking the strong beat of the dance [29]. The criteria of elegant and inelegant dancing are quite clear and understood by the local population.

These are illustrative examples of traditional music making alive on the island of Mljet. However, it is important to notice a fundamental change in context of performing. Informal playing and dancing for the local events is replaced by stage performing of local folklore groups for the festivals and incoming tourists.

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