ANSAMBL DALMACIJA – Falile Se Kastelanke – (Yugoton) – 1965

  what Frank is listening to #90 – ANSAMBL DALMACIJA – Falile Se Kastelanke – (Yugoton) – 1965

Of course I know Ansambl Dalmacija.

My mum has some of their records which she got when we went back to Croatia, in the then Yugoslavia, on holidays in 1973.

I subsequently grew up listening to their evocative songs.

The first album of theirs I personally bought was in the US in 1994. I was in an op shop in Astoria, New York and found a release of theirs on the legendary "Monitor" label. "Monitor" were an "ethnic" label from the US that released music from all nations of the world for the many migrants to the US.

This 10” album I bought last year from a 40 something Croatian guy in the US – from San Pedro stereotypically, as San Pedro has a very large Croatian population. He is a nice guy, a musician in Croatian-American traditional bands and a Liberace impersonator. In any event I bought this and some other albums and a lot of 45s of various Croat artists.

I didn't really need this album as I have all of the songs but this is the original 10" from sometime in the 1960s (probably 1965). So, it’s an indulgence.

I already knew and loved the songs.  As I'm sitting here with a glass of wine listening to this I'm transported back to a Croatia in my minds eye. If I had not been there the music would have been the wallpaper in my mind for that country. That and the stories my relatives weaned me on … stories dating back to the 1950s when they all left.  It would be easy and cynical to say times have changed, and they have, but the traditional (see below) music of the Croatian coast is still very popular, even with the younger crowd. What struck me whilst I was there recently was the fact that all the kids might be into the Ramones, Nirvana, Eric Clapton (groan), Pink Floyd (double groan) and Croatian variations of the same but they also all actively know the songs of their parents and their grandparents. This is their folk music … at least along the coast. And it is very popular … there are hundreds of professional groups and many klapa (see below) festivals.

Like all folk music this may be sung professionally but it is also the music of the people. So, when the wine is flowing and the night is late, a piano accordion or guitar (or mandolin) is pulled out and a sing along will ensue until all the wine (or smokes) are finished. Like all good folk music no one is excluded … 8 to 80, male and female, sober and drunk.

Similarly, like all good folk music there is message in the music. It would have been punishable by jail to sing overtly patriotic or nationalistic songs (seriously – even up to the 1980s – I had cousins who went to jail for saying the wrong things when pissed) in communist Yugoslavia. Ethnic songs though about your home and life were allowed and in my view are for more effective as songs and as propaganda, as they preserve a world view and a culture, which is what patriotic songs try to do in a less subtle fashion anyway.

These songs are in the (festival) klapa tradition which is a style of music from coastal Croatia most commonly associated with Dalmatia though it is practiced up into the northern region of Primorija. In old Yugoslavia the music was popular throughout the country though. It was popularised in the 1940s-1960s though the musical tradition goes back centuries. By that I mean that there are old traditional songs done in the klapa style (see below).

From the net: Dalmatia has a rich and long musical tradition. The music is typically Mediterranean one and often strongly resembles seaside Italian, Spanish or Portuguese music in the temperament and structure. What distinguishes it from the latter, are the solely vocally sung (a capella) songs by male five-to-eight ensemble – "klapa" – so called "klapa" songs….So called Dalmatian "klapa" songs are at the core of this music. "Klapa" in Dalmatian dialect means company or group, while in musical terms it refers to five-to-eight member ensembles. Traditionally, the ensemble consists only of male voices, but nowadays we witness the emergence of many mixed and female ensembles with a varying number of members…Nevertheless, its basic characteristic and distinction are, and remain, solely vocal harmony-singing, only rarely discreetly and quietly accompanied by instruments. Part-singing, usually in four parts, is originally spontaneous, performed by the ear and not by following note recordings, so harmonization is simple. A low-pitched accompaniment is stressed by a larger number of singers, giving the songs a more intimate atmosphere.

I specified the "festival" klapa tradition above. "Festival klapa" adds instumentation to the music whereas traditional klapa is exclusively a capella.

The songs are not diverse when it comes to subject matter – drinking wine, eating, playing a card game called briscula, falling in love, leaving your love, family, leaving your loving family, the harshness of the land, going to sea, and leaving your homeland (usually in the middle of the night). The "genre" has many very melancholy (if not incredibly sad) ballads as well as a lot of up-tempo songs. The slower songs are usually hyper emotional and the upbeat songs are over-exuberant, though even in the up-beat songs there seems to me to be a underlying melancholia. After all, we are talking about a country of (now) 4.5 million people where over a 50 year period about 2 million people left. I say "left" because only a few migrated. Most of them escaped as migration was not allowed between 1945 and 1965 which was the period of the biggest exodus. And yes, it does not escape me that there are many similarities with the Irish in history and music. Though unlike the Irish they have the additional "tie" of a single language, and not the difficulty of having a second dominant language (English, derrr).

An American Croatian musical klapa group described the music in its historical site as such: “Even so, the Klapa tradition has been developing for hundreds of years. Originally, groups of men would join together in their villages and sing folk songs based on love, fishing, and the sea. A unique style developed, and it was a mix of local dialect, Slavic sentiment, far eastern sound, and Italian harmonic organization…. In good times, and also in bad, on weekends and late into the night, the Klapas would sing. Until the collapse of the communist government, men's voices could be heard harmonizing in the taverns and along the streets. Traditionally, these groups singing in four-part harmony would attract small crowds of hangers-on and listeners. Women occasionally might join in, especially if it was a nationalistic or familiar folk song, but generally the women enjoyed listening in the background…. The music exhibits tremendous emotion and feel. All the standard and theoretical elements of music can be heard; complex and free rhythms, folk and Italianate harmonies, dynamics, song and verse. It is joyous and romantic; a way to be released from the cares of the world”.

Ansambl Dalmacija with its lead Mario Nardelli is probably the most well known and best loved klapa group – The Beatles of klapa (or possibly the "B Sharps" given that it is partially acapella … harrr). This is a good set, though their album from 1966 "Dalmatian Songs" is probably the best.


  • Falile Se Kastelanke
  • Barka Je Malena
  • Slusaj, Mati
  • Mare, Vilo Moja
  • Kad Si Bila Mala, Mare
  • Spavaj Mi, Spavaj, Ancice
  • Na Brigu Kuca Mala
  • Nije Ono Ljubav Prava
  • Nisam Ja Varosanka
  • Oj, Violo

I am fond of all the songs as I have heard them many times though "Barka Je Malena" (The Boat is Small) is a song my mum sang to me as a child so it holds a special significance. And "Nije Ono Ljubav Prava" (This is not a true love) and "Na Brigu Kuca Mala" (On the Hill there is a Small House) are particularly melancholy.

Though the tracks are in Croatian you don’t need to understand the lyric to get the emotion,  though having the words in English does help. I don’t have them for this LP and I aint about to translate ‘em all. Here are a few … the rest you will have to take my word on.

Songs about leaving:

Oj Violo – Oh Violet

Oj violo, oj violo——————–Oh violet , oh violet
kraj vode studene—————–Near freezing water
draga duso, draga duso———My dear soul , my dear soul
spomen' se od mene————- Remember me

Ti od mene, ti od mene———you of me , you of me
ti od mog imena——————–you of my name
goj se za me, goj se za me—-wait for me , wait for me
jos malo vrimena——————–Just a little longer

Doci cu ti, doci cu ti————–I will come , I will come
kad proklije sime —————-When the seeds start to sprout
oj ljubavi, oj ljubavi ————- Oh my love , Oh my love
za te srce gine——————– For you my heart is dying

Zbogom draga, zbogom draga———Good bye darling , good bye darling
i nemoj me kleti——————————Don't hate me
moje rici, moje rici————————- my words, my words
drzi na pameti—————————– keep on your mind

Songs about the sea / allegorical:

Barka je malena ———The Boat is little

Barka je malena, plovit se ne može,—-The Boat is small we can't keep on sailing

Oj Maro, Marice, utopit ?emo se.——–Hey Maria, Marie we will drown

Oj, mladi mornari, što morem plovite, –Hey young seaman, who can swim

spasite Maricu od morskih valova!———Save Marie from the sea waves

Oj mladi mornari, sko?ite u vodu sad——hey young seaman jump into the water now

Spasite Maricu od morskih valova.———-Save Marie from sea waves

Mornari sko?iše, Maru ne na?oše,———-Seaman jumped but they couldn't find Marie

Oj Maro, Marice, utopila si se!—————–Oh Maria ' Marie you had drown

Songs about lost love:

Na brigu ku?a mala———–on the hill is little house

Na brigu ku?a mala, na njoj su prozora dva.——— On the hill is little house ,on it they are two windows

Na prozor sjela djeva, ko ruža proljetna.—————-On the window was sitting beauty like spring rose

Što radiš djevo bajna, u tu prekrasnu no?? ———-What you are doing young beauty in this excellent night

Moj dragi zvijezdo sjajna, reko je da ?e do?. ——–My darling shining star told he will come

Tri no?i ve? su prošle, otkad ga ?ekam ja.—Three nights has gone since, and I was waiting

I mnoge još ?e pro?i, ostajem žalosna.——–and many more will go I will remain sad

Moj dragi drugu ljubi, a mene ostavlja.———My darling loves another and is leaving me

A ja ga kleti ne?u, jer sam ga voljela.———–and I won't hate him because I loved him

Now, before I go I should qualify the “traditional” and “folk” as used above. The music is an authentic folk music though it is only 60-70 years old in its current form. Croatian purists would argue it is not a traditional music of the region as the style of singing and instruments are largely imported from Italy (by local Italian Croatians) and Spain (by sailors) …hence its popularity along the Coast. They would argue that traditional music revolves around the kolo and lindjo (dances) an instruments like Dangubica, Diplica, Istarski Mih, Jedinka, Lijerica, Tamburica Gaida, Gusle, Samica, Šargija, Sopila, Curla, Diple (which is similar to the Hungarian Duda) and styles of singing like the ganga, becarac etc. I assume the purists are right but that doesn’t denigrate the klapa which is specifically Croatian also. I have some non-klapa traditional records in my collection for those interested …and some waiting for listening … be warned though … that music can be dissonant and played in weird scales.

So, klapa is their "commercial" folk music. Though, as I have said, the lyrics arise from traditional themes and concerns.

Another warning, later commercial klapa music, especially from the 70s and 80s, borders on cabaret as they added a lot of instrumentation, strings etc, whilst the 90s and present stuff has a lot of pop in it. There are also crossovers with English language pop. The pure "folk" form exists in abundance though and should be acapella, or accompanied with only one instrument.

And …

I'm keeping this obviously.


attached (lyrics above):

Barka Je Malena


Na Brigu Kuca Mala


Oj, Violo


Sorry, I can’t find any clips of Ansambl Dalmacija

an ad for a klapa compilation LP which include Ansambl Dalmacija:

here are some other klapa groups – ranging from the traditional to the cabaret:


For those interested in other Croat music styles:

Traditional instruments




(originally posted: 20/09/2009)

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at Cheers
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