Highlanders singing – the living tradition

In previous times the Tatras mountains pastures, cottages and churches were full of music. However, the Highlanders’ songs were different than those of lowlands, and the Tatras songs were different than those from Pieniny, Spis and Orava. read more

In previous times the Tatras mountains pastures, cottages and churches were full of music. However, the Highlanders’ songs were different than those of lowlands, and the Tatras songs were different than those from Pieniny, Spis and Orava. This tradition of singing is still alive, but it is not easy to find it in its pure shape.

In times, when there was no radio nor television, CD and MP3 devices, the Word was full of live music. Everybody was singing, in various situations. The shepherds in the mountains sang together with girls raking hay in the valley. In the evening in the chalet they gathered around the fire and encouraged the musicians to play so that they could dance. And during the Sunday holy mass they celebrated God with their full voices.

This is why the visitors from the lowlands appreciated the power of these songs. They liked to listen to the Highlanders music so much that, like Tytus Chałubiński, they took Highlanders bands on the mountain trips!

And why is this music so original? The musicologists suggest that it is due to raising of the fourth step of the scale, which makes all the melodies sound in a characteristic way. But there is something more differentiating this music – the colour, two or three voices division, the sound of instruments, spontaneity, melodies and rhythms! All these elements of the play of masters, such as Sabała, were fascinating.

However, the times has changed, feeding the sheep on the mountain pastures became forbidden, new working plants were built and radios were installed at homes. The music of highlanders lost its base and became the tourist attraction performed during festivals.

But this music, still practiced by many families, comes back to life at many occasions: during weddings, family feasts and parties. It has also survived in some churches. There are parishes, where people rejected the organ as it couldn’t harmonize with the Highlanders singing and the songs are led by cantors. Then, the interior of a village church is full of powerful singing, rhythmical, but not slow, loud, but not noisy. The songs common for the whole country are there sung differently, using different melodies and rhythm. This is the type of music present in Dębno Podhalańskie.

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