Nature is an inexhaustible and eternal artistic inspiration. Many great writers, poets, composers, and musicians created their best works enchanted by the beauty of nature, its rhythm and unique harmony, mountains, seas, rivers… The Danube, the second largest European river, is undoubtedly a boundless artistic motif.
The Danube connects more than 112 million people of different nationalities and religions who live in nine countries and the river flows in ten languages. As such, the region has had a great influence on the art and culture of Europe throughout the centuries, and the most diverse experiences, stories, and traditions are associated with it.
We can freely state that the Danube is not just a river, but a common sign of belonging to one world, which stretches from the Black Forest to the Black Sea. From that authentic world, a powerful flow of artists emerges, and that very word – flow – is what connects music and the river. Music flows, when the tones are gentle and harmonious, and the Danube… it crosses all borders, just like the songs about it.
A musical inspiration for artists and the most important waterway, a habitat for diverse plant and animal life, a guardian of history – the Danube flows through Serbia with a length of 588 kilometres. It started the most beautiful sounds of our region, and as a sign of gratitude, we gave it countless wonderful songs.
The New Year’s concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra couldn’t take place without the composition ‘On the Beautiful Blue Danube’ by the famous Viennese composer, Johann Strauss II, also globally known as ‘The Waltz King’; from the Hungarian csárdas you can hear Hej, Dunáról fúj, a szél, the Romanians sing Valurile Dunarii, and the Bulgarians Хубав Дунав.
And now let’s swim down 588 kilometres of melodies.
Eight Tamburitza Players from Petrovaradin is one of the most frequently interpreted songs from Vojvodina about the Danube. This track, performed in a traditional manner, is dedicated to love, music, Petrovaradin and of course, the Danube. The most famous performer of traditional Vojvodina songs, Zvonko Bogdan, is responsible for the popularity of the verses written in 1975 by Ratko Šoć, and he still sings them at almost every performance:
Stop the Danube and the old clock hands
This is my and my darling’s song
Let them follow me everywhere with a song of red wine
Eight tamburitza players from Petrovaradin.
In addition to Zvonko Bogdan folk songs about the Danube were also sung by many other vocal soloists. Among them is the great folk music star of the 1970s and 1980s, Zoran Gajić, who started his career 50 years with the single I Grew Up by the Danube.
If I were born again
I would sail the Danube again
I would sing to the girls
who grow by the Danube
and waved to the white ships.
And where does the Danube kiss the indigo blue sky? The legendary Croatian artist and unconventional fashion icon Josipa Lisac knows. One of the most romantic ballads was published on the album Boginja in 1987, and Josipa performed it at the Yugoslav Eurovision Song Contest that same year, winning seventh place.
Show me where the Danube kisses the sky,
Oh, why are we so far away now
Wake me up, I hate these nights
Desire me and come with the angels.
Many rock tracks also sail on Danube waves. Among them, the songs of the first singer of Bijelo Dugme, Željko Bebek, Tamburitza Players from Danube and Yellow Rose from Danube, have a special place, and the longest-running rock and roll group of the former Yugoslavia, YU Grupa, addresses the beautiful blue river in the songs The Danube Winds are Still Blowing and Danube.
Danube, my Danube
what news the waters bring me
Am I, am I still
alone without anyone, a deserted shore
Inspiration was found in the Danube Sea by the famous band DRUM’N’ZEZ from Novi Sad, recognisable by the hit Danube is My Sea and, of course, the favourite Pannonian sailor Đorđe Balašević, who recalls the night when he swam across the Danube through verses:
And that night I swam across the Danube,
Deep and terrible.
Forgive me, big river,
But I had to go across!
I am coming…
Find your place on the Danube riverbanks and enjoy its song.
A unique musical cruise awaits you soon as part of The Danube Sea programme arch of the European Capital of Culture.
Classical music concerts, performed by the most talented students of the Isidor Bajić Music School, will take place on the catamaran on 18, 19 and 21 August. A stage on the water – that’s how this unusual phenomenon that you can find in the afternoon looks in a nutshell.
A further series of musical events, from classical music concerts to jazz to ethno sounds, will show that Novi Sad is the miniature reflection of the Danube region.
The artistic and cultural heritage of the countries through which the Danube flows will be presented to us by the Songs of the Danube Sea, by Austrian composer Alban Berg, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, and Novi Sad composer Isidor Bajić. Going downstream along the Danube, we will listen to the performance of soprano Sonja Šarić and pianist Kaja Mandić Plavšić on 20 August at the Egység Cultural Station.
Let’s sail together. On the waves of inspiration.
Author: Marija Nenadić
Photo: Jelena Ivanović