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Music of the Republic of Macedonia

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Music of the Republic of Macedonia

The music of the Republic of Macedonia and of the Macedonians has much in common with the music of neighbouring Balkan countries, yet maintains a distinctive sound.

Folk music

The ethnic Macedonian folk music (Macedonian: Народна музика, Narodna muzika) includes:

  • Traditional music (Macedonian: Изворна музика, translit.: Izvorna muzika literally meaning: roots music)
  • Newly composed folk music (Macedonian language: новокомпонирана народна музика or новосоздадена народна музика)

Traditional music

The ethnic Macedonian traditional music, which can be rural or urban (starogradska muzika), includes: lyric songs, epic songs, labour songs, ritual songs, humorous songs, circle dance ("oro"), the old urban style called Čalgija (not to be confused with chalga) etc. Popular traditional songs are: Kaleš bre Angjo, Slušam kaj šumat šumite, Biljana platno beleše, Dafino vino crveno, Narode Makedonski, Zemjo Makedonska and many others. Often referenced oro dances are Teškoto from the village of Galičnik, Kalajdžiskoto, Komitskoto (The Dance of the freedom fighters) and others. An internationally acclaimed professional folklore association is the award winning Tanec.

The music of the Balkans is known for complex rhythms. Macedonian music exemplifies this trait. Folk songs like "Pomnish li, libe Todoro" (Помниш ли, либе Тодоро) can have rhythms as complex as 22/16, divided by stanza to 2+2+3+2+2+3+2+2+2+2, a combination of the two common meters 11=2+2+3+2+2 and 11=3+2+2+2+2 (sheet music). In order to add tension to notes, musicians (primarily from older schools) will add the distinctive characteristic of stretching out beats.

The gajda (гајда), a type of bagpipe, was the most common folk instrument in traditional Macedonian culture. It has now become an instrument for concert recitation, drawing on recent legends like Pece Atanasovski (video), leader of the Radio Skopje ensemble Ansambl na Narodni Instrumenti, as the source of modern tradition. Other instruments include:

Macedonian folk orchestras consist of a clarinet or saxophone, drum kit, bass guitar, accordion and guitar, sometimes with modern synthesizers and drum machines. These orchestras are very popular in Macedonia. Popular members are virtuoso musicians Skender Ameti and Goran Alachki on accordion and Miroslav Businovski on clarinet.

Čalgija is an urban style, played by bands (Čalgii) with a dajre (tambourine) and tarabuka (hourglass drum) providing percussion for ut (lute), kanun (zither), clarinet and violin. Though modern musicians have updated the Čalgija into a spectrum of hard and soft, classical and pop sounds, some traditional musicians remain. Perhaps the most influential of recent years was Tale Ognenovski, who plays a wide variety of traditional and modern sounds.

Newly composed folk music

The newly composed folk music (Suzana Spasovska, Mitre Mitrevski, Efto Pupinovski, Vojo Stojanovski, Orce Stefkovski, Blagica Pavlovska, Dragan Vučić, Zoran Vanev, Vaska Ilieva and others. Some of them also perform traditional songs. The newest generation of performers of this genre such as Blagojce Stojanovski-TUSE, Sonja Tarculovska, Elena Velevska, Jasmina Mukaetova, Aneta Nakovska, Pane Panev altogether with the bands such as Bioritam, Bolero bend, Art Plaza have introduced a newer outlook to this kind of music inspired by the Serbian turbofolk, Bulgarian chalga, and Greek laika, so their style is more considered as pop-folk, rather than folk music.

Several popular folk music festivals exist, including: Folk fest Valandovo in Valandovo, Serenada na Širok sokak in Bitola, Cvetnici in Skopje, Ohridski trubaduri – Ohrid Fest in Ohrid and others.

Outside the Republic of Macedonia

Traditional as well as modern music is created and performed in other countries where ethnic Macedonian communities exist, which include primarily the Balkan countries surrounding Republic of Macedonia, as well as enclaves resulting from the diaspora in the US, Australia, Canada and other countries. A notable example is the folk musician Kostas Novakis from Greece (born in Koufalia, Thessaloniki regional unit, Greek Macedonia), who claims Macedonian ethnicity and performs traditional ethnic Macedonian music. Despite the political tensions between Republic of Macedonia, with ethnic Macedonians on one side and Greece on the other, Novakis released several CD titles with traditional ethnic Macedonian music in Greece [1].

Classical music

Mokranjac School of Music

The Mokranjac School of Music was established in Skopje, in 1934. In addition to its well-respected choir, it was famous for the people that were involved in its establishment, composers like Trajko Prokopiev and Todor Skalovski.


After the liberation of the country from fascist occupation in the Second World War and the formation of the modern Macedonian state, the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra was established in 1944, while 1947 saw the formation of the Association of Musicians of Macedonia. Shortly after that, the first Macedonian radio concert was made, conducted by Todor Skalovski.

During the 1950s, the first Macedonian ballet by Zina Krelja, and the pianist Ladislav Palfi.


Today, one of the most prominent classical music artists is the pianists Simon Trpčeski, also notable opera singers include Neven Siljanovski, Blagoj Nacoski, Ana Durlovski, Igor Durlovski and Boris Trajanov. From the diaspora, a notable performer is the Australian born, but ethnic Macedonian pianist Hristijan Spirovski. The most prominent conductors include Sasha Nikolovski-Gjumar, Borjan Canev, Sasho Tatarchevski, Bisera Chadlovska and Oliver Balaburski, and the most notable instrumentalist are the violinists Ljubisha Kirovski, Oleg Kondratenko and Russian born Anna Kondratenko, the saxophonist Ninoslav Dimov, the clarinetist Stojan Dimov, the bassists Velko Todevski and Petrus Petrusevski and the oboist Gordana Josifova-Nedelkovska. Among the composers are Darija Andovska, Jana Andreevska, Goce Kolarovski, Tome Mancev, Stojan Stojkov, Damjan Temkov, Valentina Velkovska, Soni Petrovski, Goran Nachevski, Boris Svetiev, Ljubomir Brangjolica, Michael Bakrnčev [2]] and the composer, but also a performer, musicologist and researcher, Dimitrije Bužarovski.

Popular music

Pop music

Popular pop music performers in Republic of Macedonia include: Toše Proeski (the most prominent Macedonian singer), Karolina Gočeva, Maja Odžaklievska, Ljupka Dimitrovska, Rebeka, Gjoko Gjorchev, Elena Risteska, Vlatko Ilievski, Vlatko Lozanoski, Dani Dimitrovska, Kaliopi, Tamara Todevska, Vrcak, Robert Bilbilov, Lambe Alabakoski, Jovan Jovanov, Andrijana Janevska, Kristina Arnaudova and others. Notable composers, producers and arrangers involved in the pop music scene are Darko Dimitrov, Damir Imeri, Aleksandar Masevski, and Grigor Koprov. Many artists are famous as both singer and songwriter such as Jovan Jovanov and Miyatta.

The first examples of Macedonian pop music appeared in the mid-20th century and was called "zabavna muzika". The most famous old-generation performers are Zafir Hadzimanov, Verica Risteska, Dragan Mijalkovski and many others. According to style, the Macedonian pop music is a Western type of pop music, with influences of folk and oriental music. Several fusion genres such as pop-rock, pop-rap, ethnopop, and pop-folk also have developed.

Music festivals

Major music festivals in Macedonia include Skopje Fest in Skopje, Ohridski Trubaduri - Ohrid Fest in Ohrid, MakFest in Štip, Interfest in Bitola.

The Republic of Macedonia debuted as an independent state at the Eurovision Song Contest 1998. So far, its highest placing was 12th in Eurovision Song Contest 2006 final which altogether was overall best result in televoting years. Skopje Fest currently also serves as Macedonia's national final for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Rock music

The most successful and influential rock band in Macedonia (and one of the most popular in former Yugoslavia) was Leb i Sol. They combined rock music with fusion jazz and traditional music elements creating a distinct sound of their own, becoming one of the top acts of the former Yugoslav Rock scene. After they broke up, the guitarist Vlatko Stefanovski, the bassist Bodan Arsovski, the keyboard player Kokan Dimuševski and the drummer Garabet Tavitijan all started successful solo careers, each in his own right. In 2006 they gathered again for a reunion tour to mark 30th anniversary since their beginning as a band. In 2008, a different line-up recorded a new album, I taka nataka without Stefanovski's and Tavitjan's participation.

Other notable group was Bisbez, which was influenced by The Beatles and other 1960s artists. It was formed in 1964 by merging two previously existing bands Biseri (meaning Pearls) and Bezimeni (Nameless). During the 1970s notable groups were Pu, Madrigali, Ilinden 903, Den za Den, Leva patika, Triangl, Torr and others. Most of them were into hard rock, progressive rock, folk rock, symphonic rock, jazz rock and funk rock. The late 1970s saw the emergence of punk rock. The first punk rock band was Fol Jazik, formed in Skopje in 1978. During the 1980s other notable punk groups were Saraceni and Badmingtons, both led by Vladimir Petrovski Karter. Later he switched to a more mainstream sound and formed the group Aleksandar Makedonski (Alexander of Macedon). The new wave scene featured artists such as the ska group Cilindar, Usta na usta and Tokmu taka. Tokmu taka's vocalist Ljupčo Bubo Karov from Kavadarci later became popular as an actor of the comedy TV show K-15, while Usta na usta's member Aleksandar Prokopiev became a prominent writer. Another influential band was Bon Ton Bend with Dario Pankovski, who released many hits of new wave music. Notable heavy metal artists were the groups Karamela and Concorde, the latter being remembered for their more radio-friendly hit "Visoki štikli i crni čorapi" ("High Heels and Black Stockings"). Its guitarist Venko Serafimov later started a successful solo career. The synthpop trio Bastion which featured Kiril Džajkovski was one of the most important 1980s acts. Another notable 1980's act was Haos in Laos. The pop-rock group Memorija formed in 1984 was one of the most prosperous from this period. The most productive in the country was the post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock scene which included the cult bands Mizar, Arhangel and Padot na Vizantija, the latter led by Goran Trajkoski. Later he formed the neo-folk group Anastasia which became internationally acclaimed with its soundtrack for the Milčo Mančevski's Academy Award nominated film Before the Rain.

Notable artists during the first half of the 1990s music included the thrash metal group Sanatorium, the alternative rock bands Suns, Last Expedition, The Hip, Balkan Express, Decadence, Vodolija, Nikeja, the punk rockers Rok Agresori and Parketi, and D' Daltons, which was initially a rockabilly act. The second half of the decade saw the emergence of the hardcore punk bands Sidewalk, Fluks, Tank Warning Net, Smut, Bumbiks and No Name Nation, while notable extreme metal band was Siniac. In the 2000s, prominent acts included Superhiks (ska punk), Denny Te Chuva (melodic hardcore, emo), Smut (metalcore), Verka (folk metal), Two Sides (hardcore punk), Parketi (pop punk), Kulturno Umetnički Rabotnici (garage punk), Noviot početok (hardcore punk), Bernay's Propaganda (indie-rock, post-punk revival) and others. Notable all-female bands in the Macedonian scene were Royal Albert Hall and Vivid.

There are several rock music festivals, some of the most notable include: Taksirat annually organized by Lithium Records and the Skopje gori organized by Avalon Productions. Both of the festivals hosted numerous internationally acclaimed rock, underground music artists from all the Balkan countries.

Hip hop

A well-developed hip hop music scene also exists.

Electronic scene

The most prominent electronic musicians are Kiril Džajkovski (a former member of Bastion), the PMG Collective, Robotek, Novogradska and Gotra. Macedonia has a developed clubbing scene especially in Skopje. Several festivals featuring foreign DJs take place in the country, many of them on the Ohrid Lake during the summer season.


One of the most successful Jazz Brand in Macedonia are Saso Popovski trio, (Balkan Jazz Collective), Goce Micanov, "Tavitjan Brothers – (Garo Tavitjan, Garo Tavitjan Junior and Diran Tavitjan) with traveling around the world there are bringing authentic Macedonian jazz sound with virtuosity of playing and performance. The Macedonian jazz scene is highly appreciated as well. The premier jazz guitarist in Macedonia currently is Toni Kitanovski. Among notable jazz musicians and bands are vibraphonist Zoran Madžirov, pianists Dragan Soldatovic – Labish and Simon Kiselicki, bands like Sethstat, Letecki Pekinezeri, La Colonie Volvox among others. The Skopje Jazz Festival is held annually.

Children's music

One of the most notable children's music festivals is Zlatno slavejče (Golden Nightingale) annually held in Skopje, which has a long tradition in the Republic of Macedonia. Other festivals include Si-Do in Bitola Kalinka in Gevgelija and Super Zvezda, also in Skopje. Notable composers of children's songs, producers and arrangers include Mile Sherdenkov, Dragan Karanfilovski Bojs, Miodrag and Marjan Nečak, Kire Kostov, Petar Sidovski, Slave Dimitrov, Milko Lozanovski, Aleksandar Džambazov, Ljupčo Mirkovski, Darko Mijalkovski and others. Several TV shows featuring children music exist. The country also takes part in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest and recently achieved the best result- 5th place for their 2007 entry at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2007.

See also


  • Burton, Kim. "Tricky Rhythms". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 202–206. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

Audio clips

  • Kaleš bre Angjo
  • Slušam kaj šumat šumite
  • Biljana platno beleše
  • Dafino vino crveno
  • Narode Makedonski


  • Teškoto oro folk dance
  • Kalajdžiskoto oro folk dance
  • Pece Atanasovski playing gajda (bagpipe)
  • Pajduško oro folk dance
  • Nevestinskoto oro – Wedding folk dance
  • Žensko beranče female folk dance

External links

  • (French) Audio clips: Traditional music of Macedonia. Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève. Accessed 25 November 2010.
  • Macedonian ethnology, folk music and dances – Foundation Open Society Institute, Macedonia
  • Macedonian Music Network
  • Mister Company Production
  • Lithium Records (Macedonian music label) – mostly alternative rock & roll and electronic artists including news, biographies and MP3s
  • Avalon Production
  • Macedonian Underground Music Archive including most of the Darkwave generation of bands from the 1980s
  • Mavrova 'dan aldim sumbul(Turkish lyrics)
  • Brenna MacCrimmon – Ediye
  • Tous aux Balkans » Macedonia songs lyrics and videos
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