Skip to main content
our twitterour facebook page pintrest youtube
Klapa Singing - Dalmatian Folk Singing Phenomenon
Klapa Singing - Dalmatian Folk Singing Phenomenon
Klapa singing is a well-known folk singing phenomenon of coastal-urban and suburban areas and the islands of Dalmatia. The character, musical content and style of klapa were dynamically modified throughout the time, freely adopting new changes. That is one of the reason for the present day popularity of the klapa, especially among the younger generation, and a certain sign of long-lasting future of the klapa.Traditionally, the individuals who sing in the klapa are men. Female singers also sang the same tunes but on more of an individual basis. In the last two decades, there has been an accelerating popularity of klapa singing among women. The term "traditional klapa" refers to an informal group of singers who sing occasionally, for the sake of the singing. Oral tradition and simple music making are main characteristics of this klapa type. Historically, the aspiration to delight in harmonious ringing chords, has a long tradition in Dalmatia. An important feature of true traditional klapa is the ability to sing freely, without help from noted tunes and their harmonization. This style of singing is known as pjevanje na uho (" singing by ear"). Only the leading voice, prvi tenor (first tenor), leads the melody and lyrics of the song. He initiates the singing. The second voice, sekondo (second tenor,), immediately joins in at a third below. The third voice bariton, daje ulja pismi (gives oil to the song), completes the triad. The fourth voice, bas or basso profondo (bass), defines the harmonic functions of tonic, dominant and subdominant. He challenges himself in low and strong singing (profondo). The song unfolds with the harmonious ringing of chords, as if all the singers were well-acquainted with the melody and lyrics of the song. The term "festival klapa" is associated with the beginning of Omis Festival of Dalmatian Klapas. The Festival of Dalmatian Klapas in Omis, established in 1967, is the annual competition and great promotion of klapa singing; creating a bond between amateurs singing and scholars directing. The festival klapa is formally organized group of singers with clear aims and intentions. Although the joy of singing binds them, the performance and presentation of the singing are their main objective. All of this is realized with the help of trained leader who selects singers and repertoire, and regularly practices with klapa. Klapas sing their songs traditionally. On the other hand, festival and modern klapas sing a wide variety of homophonic and polyphonic songs, both pop hits and folk songs from different cultures, occasionally with musical accompaniment of guitars, mandolins and even electrical instruments. 

Topics of klapa songs usually deal with love, familiar life situations, satara ("gossiping") and the environment in which they live. Love, though, is the predominant theme. Klapa singers express their mood by means of open guttural, nasal, serenade-like sotto voce and falsetto singing, and usually in high-pitched tessitura. It is not always possible to draw a clear dividing line between the specific styles of singing mentioned above. A klapa ensemble can sing using a combination of singing styles depending upon their mood. The main aim of the singers is to achieve the best possible blend of chords. This is of primary importance to the prestige of klapas, in their competition to win audience support. Performance style of klapa songs has much in common with the general characteristics of European folk music, specifically with that from the Southern part of Europe, the European Mediterranean. The most characteristic feature of European folk songs, strophic form, which is a specific way of expressing folk poetry, is also a feature in klapa songs. Other European folk song characteristics, such as use of diatonic intervals, church modes and concepts of meter, are also found in klapa songs.  

source: Mr. sc. Josko Æaleta,