Friday, July 21, 2017

Predrag "Cune" Gojković

Shhhh, be calm my beloved, be quiet and listen...
You know how I have to tell the story. Shhhh, be quiet and listen but do not go to sleep.

Davno davno, long long ago... so very long ago... and still today, there are mountains in the Balkans which you have very likely never climbed, and it is very likely that you have never seen, nor is it likely you have heard much about them. The Šar (Shar) mountains are likely such mountains. When Polybius wrote of these mountains, he called them "το Σκάρδον ὂρος" or "the Skaradon mountains" (xxxviii 8), as did Ptolemy in ii 16 and Livy (xlii 20, xliv 31).

The Romans very likely would like to have not had to hear of these mountains, because in them lived the Scordisci, who for several centuries held sway over the area which is now Serbia - and more. We Croats have a bit of a taste of them remaining in the name of a small but important town. All our towns are important, so why did I say that? Just 11 miles out of Šibenik, at the gates of Krka, is Skradin, which under the Romans, and before, was called Scardona after the Scordisci. According to Livy, they showed up in the reign of Philip V of Macedon as allies against the Dardani and Rome. By the third century BC, they had become the most important power in the northern Balkans. It took the Romans three hundred years to defeat them, and before the end of the first century AD, the Scordisci were receiving Roman citizenship and the Scordisci began to disappear as a people.

As soon as they had control over the area, the Romans, being ants as they were, set about building a road, the Via Militaris, or Military Highway, which reached northward from Constantinople. Along the way, the road passed through Naissus, which today is Niš, which became the birthplace of Constantine the Great, after whom Constantinople was named.

Follow me now. Here at Niš, we go up on Suva Planina (Dry Mountain) and find the Sokolov Kamen (Falcon's rock). This is the highest ground around us. We are going to look north. Perhaps we cannot see our destination yet, but we know it is there. We are going to, hang on to your seats, we are going to the Hawk's Nest (Kragujevac). Trust me, it is a little way up the road but not so far. We go.

Not so far from the Hawk's Nest, we find a little town called Batočina. Not so far from Batočina, which itself is nowhere, we find the little settlement of Brzan, which is nowhere at all, except not too far from the old Roman Via Militaris. About 1754 people live here. I did tell you it was little, did I not? Yes, I thought I did. Brzan is so small that hardly anyone has photos from there. There are a few people, and a church. Oh yes, there is a little bridge I wouldn't drive over if you paid me a fortune to do it, but that's about all that is there.

Through all the history of the Šar, which are now really to the south of us, through all the history of the Scordisci, through all the history of the Romans, the Byzantines, the Bulgars, the Turks, and through all the history of the Serbs, nothing important ever happened in that village. Nothing. Not a thing happened there. Until 1932.

On the 6th of November 1932, Predrag Gojković was born there. In 1939, it was back down the highway to the Falcon's Rock, where he attended the Primary school, "Vojislav Ilić Mlađi," named after a famous nineteenth century Serbian poet. He finished high school at the Eighth Male Gymnasium at the Red Cross in Belgrade, where he attended and was classmates with future celebrated actors, Velimir Bato Živojinović and Danilo Bata Stojković. He was already singing by the time he was seven, so, by the time he got to the College of Commerce, he preferred the Tavernas to the classroom.

He was an actor in three notable films: "Tri majstora" [Three Masters] (1996), "Jagode u grlu" [Stawberries in throat] (1985), and "I Bog stvori kafansku pevacicu" [and God created Kafena singers] (1972)

Known as Cune, his voice was incredible with three octaves. He recorded over a thousand songs for Radio Belgrade. Some say that, altogether, he recorded over four thousand songs. Whatever any one thinks of the man, he recorded and preserved a major chunk of the folk music of the Balkans. While it is true that we have long since given up on the idea of a "Jugoslavia," we are south Slavs; we have been scattered at various times all over the Balkans, just like the Scordisci of old. A big portion of this music belongs to us at least as much as to anyone. The man preserved a bit of history for us, and for that we commend him.

There is a corner of his repertoire that we Croatians just pass off as "Mexican." Well............ remember there was an Austrian Archduke Maximilian once upon a time. No, not that one. The one Napoleon carted off to Mexico - along with a passel of Croatian soldiers who got left behind when Napoleon turned and fled Mexico. Christian men they were, staunch Catholics for the most part. Some of them were musicians, and their music became the music of northern Mexico, and, to some extent, of Texas.

The corridos of the Mexican Revolution of the early twentieth century were heavily influenced by the music of these Croatian soldiers, who, after the demise of Maximilian's adventure, married the widows of the men they had so recently been fighting. During the persecutions of the Catholic Church in Mexico during the twenties of the last century, they were, in many cases, the staunch die-hard Catholics who fled over the border into Texas for religious freedom. This music, Cune honored, preserved, and reintroduced to South Eastern Europe from which it came. For this, we commend Predrag Gojkovic.

Alas, this morning, 21 July 2017, word came that Predrag Cune Gojkovic had been called home to our heavenly Father. I will miss him.

There are many stories we could tell of the man. Some should be told, because they are wonderful, and I will let others tell them. Other stories, we will smile, and allow to continue to be mysteries.

Počivaj u miru, prijatelju stari. Rest in peace, old friend.

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,
David Byler a.k.a. Canovals
21. srpanj 2017

PS -one of those Croatian Mexican Choruses from a hundred years ago which Cune recorded for us ..

No comments:

Post a Comment