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Gusle (Slavic instrument, epic poetry, Homer)

The gusle (Serbian Cyrillic: гусле; Bulgarian: гусла) or lahuta (Albanian: lahutë) is a single-stringed musical instrument (and musical style) traditionally used in the Dinarides region of Southeastern Europe (in the Balkans). The instrument is always accompanied by singing; musical folklore, specifically epic poetry.

The gusle player holds the instrument vertically between his knees, with the left hand fingers on the strings. The strings are never pressed to the neck, giving a harmonic and unique sound. Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle as a part of Serbia’s intangible cultural heritage was inscribed in 2018 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

Gusle are also indirectly important to the whole of Western civilization. The Homeric Iliad and the Odyssey are the generally considered foundational works of literature of Western civilization along with the Torah and the Christian Bible. As the verses pertain to a war and events long before the abjad script was known to the Greeks, it was proposed that Homeric hymns were sung, not written, and were passed down through generations of singing epic bards, who were, like Homer, often blind. This was finally proven as probable in the 19th century when the German classicist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the gusle tradition not far from Greece after observing a Serbian bard reciting a lengthy poem in a similar style.

Source: Gusle – Wikipedia


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  1. Tim B.

    “The Kângë Kreshnikësh (“Songs of Heroes”) are the traditional songs of the heroic non-historical cycle of Albanian epic poetry (Albanian: Cikli i Kreshnikëve or Eposi i Kreshnikëve). They are the product of Albanian culture and folklore orally transmitted down the generations by the Albanian rhapsodes (lahutarë) who perform them singing to the accompaniment of the lahutë (some singers use alternatively the çifteli).[1] The Albanian traditional singing of epic verse from memory is one of the last survival of its kind in modern Europe.[2] The poems of the cycle belong to the heroic genre,[3] reflecting the legends that portray and glorify the heroic deeds of the warriors of indefinable old times.[4] The epic poetry about past warriors is an Indo-European tradition shared with South Slavs, but also with other heroic cultures such as those of early Greece, classical India, early medieval England and medieval Germany.[5]

    The songs were first time collected in written form in the first decades of the 20th centuries by the Franciscan priests Shtjefën Gjeçovi, Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti. Palaj and Kurti were eventually the first to publish a collection of the cycle in 1937, consisting of 34 epic songs containing 8,199 verses in Albanian.[6] Important research was carried out by foreign scholars like Maximilian Lambertz, Fulvio Cordignano, and especially Milman Parry and Albert Lord in the 1930s. Lord’s still unpublished remarkable collection of over 100 songs containing about 25,000 verses is now preserved in the Milman Parry Collection at Harvard University.[7]”

  2. Tim B.

    “It was emphasized to me that the instrument and its messages are very powerful: they carry the history and spirit of Serbian people. I was told that, in times past, the gusle has been considered so powerful that, during invasions, Serbian guslars have been targeted and killed because of their knowledge.”

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