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Story about Sevdalinka, traditional Bosnian song

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“Listen to these songs in the quietude of your own soul, without asking where they came from and who do they really belong to. Because they belong to all of us – everyone who listens to them around the world today, quietly singing to them with our soul.” – Miljenko Jergovic on sevdalinka.

Sevdalinka, or sevdah is the genre of traditional songs from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sevdalinka is a type of a lyrical romance, its name deriving from the Turkish word “sevda” – “love”, although other theories exist regarding the linguistic roots of the name. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, the oriental word has acquired a slightly different meaning. Sevdah and sevdalinke is love with a touch of Bosnian melancholy, mental anguish and feelings of intense love.

Women in cities were protected from the male prying eyes. Having no other direct way to express their feelings, people began to express them through songs. Sevdalinke are, therefore, feelings. They express the emotional outbursts of suffering and love of the author and the performer. Sevdalinke express the protest of love against the conservative social norms, the structure of the society, against arranged marriages and marriages without love. Through sevdalinke one pours his soul out. Because of this, Bosnia also has an expression which is literally translated as “to fall into Sevdah”, which refers to a state of melancholy, longing, a state of extreme emotional outburst and even hapiness often influenced by alcohol.

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